Book Review: Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms by Tim Tebow

tim-tebow-shakenWhat happens when your dreams for your life do not become a reality? What happens when life throws you a curve ball and you wonder what God is doing?  These are some of the questions that have gone through Tim Tebow’s head in the last few years as he has sought to follow God and pursue his dream as an NFL quarterback.  In Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms, Tebow takes readers on his personal journey to discover who he is and who God is calling him to be while leading us to discover these things for ourselves.

Tebow’s book focuses on the theme of knowing your own foundation for your identity.  If our foundation is in our performance, another person, or our dreams, that foundation will fail when these things are challenged in the storms of life.  The only true and abiding foundation for our identities is found in a relationship with Jesus and who He says that we are.  This truth is one that Tebow has learned to cling to in difficult times and an important truth that he also calls readers to personally embrace.

Shaken is filled with stories of people who Tebow has met that have had different challenges and how God has used him to help encourage them.  From prisoners to cancer patients to kids with disabilities, Tebow shows and challenges readers that God can use each and every one of us to make a difference in the lives of those who find themselves in storms.  God has a plan and a mission to bless the world through us and Tebow challenges us to embrace that plan.

Shaken is a personal and challenging book that invites readers to build their lives on an abiding foundation, trust God in difficult times, and allow God to use them to change the world.  This is an easy to read book that will encourage readers to follow Jesus more faithfully and find their true value in Him.

Book Review: People of the Second Chance by Mike Foster

people-of-the-second-chanceWhat does it look like to both seek to experience the power of grace for yourself and then to extend the greatness of grace to others? This is the simple yet life-changing question that Mike Foster seeks to tackle in his book People of the Second Chance: A Guide to Bringing Life-Saving Love to the World.

People of the Second Chance is part exposition of the Prodigal Son story, part personal memoir, part personal counseling guide, and part challenge.  Foster presents a book that is personal, practical, and life-giving.  For many people who struggle to forgive themselves, love others, and be willing to celebrate the power of the grace of God at work, this book offers an invitation to begin to experience all of these things in an easy to read and helpful way.

Foster’s book will leave you in awe of the power of God’s grace at work in your own heart and life and excited to extend that same grace that you have received to others.  This is an excellent book that will both grow your personal walk on a journey of grace and set a passion within you to lead others to experience their own personal story of grace.

Book Review: Finding God in the Hard Times by Matt and Beth Redman

Finding God in the Hard TimesHow do you worship God in challenging times?  It is easy to praise God when things are going well, yet it can be difficult to respond in faith and worship when times are hard.  In Finding God in the Hard Times: Choosing to Trust and Hope When You Can’t See the Way, worship leaders and fellow sufferers, Matt and Beth Redman lead readers through the narrative of their song “Blessed Be Your Name” on a journey to discover how to respond in faith when you want to run from God.

The Redmans write about the importance of remembrance in difficult times.  When God seems distant and the circumstances seem overwhelming, we remember who God is and how He has worked in our lives in the past.  Since God never changes, the past faithfulness of God in our lives serves as a reminder of His continuing faithfulness to us in the challenging circumstances that we are facing.

Throughout difficult times, the Redmans also call their readers to rest in God’s plan and control.  God has a plan that He is working in the lives of His people for His glory and their good.  It is by clinging to the bigger story that God is writing with our lives that we have hope in hard times.

Since our lives are fortunately not constant paths of suffering, the Redmans write about the importance of praise in the good times.  When times are going well, we must live from a posture of constant thankfulness.  In this posture, we acknowledge that all good things are gifts from God that we should return to Him through our praise and our service.

Finding God in the Hard Times is a short and hope-filled book that will encourage any believer walking through times of suffering.  Through personal narrative and letters from others, the Redmans give us encouragement that God is in control and that hope still exists.  The small group questions included at the end of each chapter also make this a good resource for a small group to walk through together.

Book Review: Critical Conversations by Tom Gilson

Critical Conversations

Parents and youth leaders constantly face the challenge of communicating timeless biblical truths to students in the midst of a world that constantly stands against these biblical truths.  There is no topic as front and center in this need for important conversations that the topic of homosexuality.  Our culture constantly teaches against a biblical sexual ethic and many times celebrates people’s personal sexual expression no matter how contrary to the biblical ethic it may be.  Into these challenging conversations between parents, youth leaders, and students, Tom Gilson presents a helpful resource titled Critical Conversations: A Christian Parent’s Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with Teens.

Critical Conversations is broken down helpfully into three segments.

The first segment addresses the biblical and cultural background necessary for understanding the ongoing cultural and biblical conversation regarding homosexuality.  Gilson has an especially insightful chapter about the role of the sexual revolution of the 1960s opening the door for the homosexual movement of today.  Throughout the book, Gilson stands clearly on a biblical ethic that homosexuality is a sin, yet Christians should respond in grace towards people no matter what they believe about sexual ethics.

The second segment of the book is a helpful discussion on how students should relate to other people through relationships who live out a different view on homosexuality or disagree with the biblical sexual ethic.  The key relationships discussed include relationships with friends, teachers, administrators, and professors.  The tips in this segment of the book are very practical while encouraging students to not back down from biblical truth while also responding in love.

The final segment of the book discusses common challenges that Christians will face regarding the topic of homosexuality.  Each specific challenge is academically and logically addressed then leading parents and youth ministers to some ideas on how to engage your student in this conversation.  The final segment is a resource that will be very helpful to parents and adult leaders.

In the middle of a topic where many new books are being written, Critical Conversations stands as a readable and very helpful resource for parents and youth pastors.  Gilson does not back down from an academic and biblical discussion of the key issues, yet he also presents his arguments in a way that is easily accessible to those who are simply trying to better disciple and equip the students they love.

Book Review: (Un)qualified by Steven Furtick

Unqualified- FurtickWhat does it take to be used by God?  Many people struggle with feelings of uncertainty and worthlessness and wonder if God could ever use them for His kingdom work.  God is in the business of using those who understand their deep need for Him to do great things for His fame in the world.  This is the thesis behind Steven Furtick’s new book (Un)qualified: How God Uses Broken People to Do Big Things.

(Un)qualified is a story that begins with Furtick hearing a famous evangelical pastor in an interview referring to him as someone who was unqualified to do ministry.  These are words that can bring much hurt and pain, but Furtick’s response was to agree with this pastor because biblically, we are called to be people who follow God through surrender to His work in and through us.

Furtick’s book speaks to the feelings of brokenness and insecurity that everyone feels.  He does an effective job of connecting with the struggles that many face and giving biblical wisdom on how God truly sees us.  It is in finding our identity first and foremost in Jesus that we can discover who we are and how God can use us.

The book then points to Jesus’ sufficiency in our weakness.  Through the biblical narratives of Paul and Jacob, Furtick points to the importance of a humble reliance on Jesus to be our sufficiency and to lead us to be people who can serve Him and His kingdom.  The reality is that Jesus’ work through us is how we can truly serve God and minister to others.

(Un)qualified is a very helpful book on a topic that we need to constantly remind ourselves about.  We are not sufficient; Jesus is the only One who is sufficient.  We are not good enough; Jesus is the One who is good in us and through us.  These are great gospel truths that all Christians need to cling to as they seek to follow Jesus and live the Christian life!

Book Review: Live Love Lead by Brian Houston

livelovelead

In Live, Love, Lead, Hillsong Pastor Brian Houston shares his insights from his own spiritual journey and the journey of Hillsong Church in a way that is powerful, practical, and relevant to both the ministry leader and everyday Christ-follower.  Houston’s book is very real in that it doesn’t only share the successes and happy moments of the Hillsong journey and his personal walk with Jesus.  This is a book written through times of great spiritual and personal darkness, yet Houston constantly challenges his readers to cling to hope and grace with faith knowing that God is truly at work in all seasons of life.

Live Love Lead is a challenge to readers to find their spiritual gifts and calling and to pursue Jesus and building His kingdom in the midst of wherever God has placed them.  Houston clearly believes that God has gifted every member of the church for ministry and has given them a unique calling to impact the world.  Through this impact, God’s kingdom is spread throughout the world.  This is a compelling presentation of the Great Commission and a call for every follower of Jesus to join into God’s work.

Houston constantly points his readers to the hope of grace and the gospel while also reminding them that God has a plan that He is ultimately going to fulfill.  This eternal hope is the driving power for the believer in the midst of the challenges of living for and serving Jesus in the midst of the world.  This is the hope that the Christian longs for and that Houston clearly challenges the church to long for on a deeper level.

Live Love Lead is a compelling book written from the personal and ministry struggles and successes of a successful global pastor.  It is a read that challenges Christians to pursue who they are in Jesus and how He may be calling them to impact their world as they seek to live for Jesus, love others, and lead the kingdom.

Book Review: Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach

Messy Grace

Balancing the truths of God’s Word while staying gracious towards others is a constant tension in which the Christian life is lived.  This tension is seen very clearly in the debates and discussions within the church regarding the topic of homosexuality.  How do we as Christians stand with the biblical precedent that homosexuality is a sin while also responding in love and grace towards those struggling with homosexuality?

Messy Grace: How a Pastor with Gay Parents Learned to Love Others without Sacrificing Conviction is a very helpful resource in helping the church begin to better answer this question.  Caleb Kaltenbach writes with the heart of a son for parents that he loves yet disagrees with while refusing to compromise the Bible’s teachings on the topic of homosexuality.

Written through the lens of Caleb’s life story, Messy Grace is a powerful testimony to the work of God in His life while also clearly showing the areas where Christians have failed to show grace to his parents and to others regarding homosexuality.  The hatred of Caleb’s parents for Christians throughout the majority of the book’s storyline is not without warrant.  Many people failed to represent Jesus well to those who did not know Him.  These chapters also show the amazing grace of God in saving Caleb, drawing him to Himself, and calling him to ministry.  The weaving of the grace of God in the midst of the Kaltenbach family is truly a work of grace.

In the midst of a very heated topic in the church, Messy Grace does a very effective job of shining a light on the humanity of the struggle while calling the church to engage people with the gospel while leading with grace but never denying truth.  This is a challenging read that anyone seeking to engage others should read and consider.