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: Rise by Trip Lee

trip-lee Rise

What does it mean for a young Christian to rise above the cultural expectations that have been put on them?  What does can a life look like if a new believer embraces a costly discipleship and begins to live for the glory of One greater than himself or herself?  Rise: Get Up and Live in God’s Great Story is Tripp Lee’s attempt to challenge young adults and those young in their faith journey to do just that.

Rise is broken down into three simple sections: Get Up, Growing Up, and Pointing Up.  These sections come together to make a book that is built on Lee’s own personal experiences yet grounded in God’s Word as a great starting point for young adults and new believers.

In the Get Up section of the book, Lee challenges his readers to take serious the fact that time is short, expectations for them are low, the importance of taking action now, and the understanding that God is making them who he is calling them to be.  The call to take action is clear, practical, and compelling.  God has rescued His children for great things, and Lee calls his readers to embrace these great things.

In the Growing Up section of Rise, Lee addresses the importance of time management, getting your life in order, the power of God’s forgiveness, sexuality, pornography, marriage, age and wisdom, grey areas, and trials and struggles.  These are important topics that help to define the Christian life.  As we grow as believers, we will experience many of the challenges that Lee addresses.  These chapters offer helpful and biblical advice to readers on how to manage the challenges that come as we seek to grow in Christ.

In the Pointing Up section, Lee challenges his readers to let themselves be known for their love of God and others, understand that everything in life is sacred and a gift of worship to God, the gospel is worth spreading, preaching the gospel is costly, and the importance of being a member of a local church.  These are all ways in which a Christian’s faith continues to grow and flourish as they seek to exalt Jesus in their lives and join Him in His work in the world.

Rise is an easy and challenging read to begin to walk the life of faith in a way that is costly, compelling, and makes an impact on the world.  Tripp Lee personally lives this call and encourages his readers to join him in this journey of living in God’s great story.

Book Review: Look and Live by Matt Papa

Look and Live

How do we most clearly follow Jesus?  How do we live a life of faith in the midst of a world and a culture that so strongly opposes our faith?  How do we regain a passion for Christ that we feel is waining?  How do we fight sin and idols in our lives?  These are many of the questions and challenges that many Christians face on a daily basis.  The answer is simple and clear: Look and Live.  In this book, Matt Papa writes an honest account of struggling to rest in the amazing glory of Jesus and His gospel as the central goal of the Christian life.  This is a paradigm shift that changes everything and makes this a book that every follower of Jesus should read.

Papa defines every struggle and challenge that we face as a worship problem.  We were wired for worship and made to be only satisfied in worshipping King Jesus, the only one who is truly worthy of our worship.  He then calls readers to see everything through the lens of worship.  When we sin and run after idols, our worship is directed in the wrong direction.

We grow in our Christian lives when we learn to see, behold, and be satisfied in the glory of God.  Papa helpfully and practically illustrates this truth with regard to the topics of spiritual disciplines (prayer, Bible reading, meditation, Bible memorization), missions, and suffering.  The glory and gospel of God is the truth that radically reframes all of these priorities.

Look and Live is a simple yet profound book that calls readers to fix their eyes on Jesus and to run faithfully after Him until He calls them home.  This book reframes the topic of sanctification in a gospel-saturated and practical way that makes it a great resource for believers striving to be who God is making them to be.

Book Review: Walking on Water When You Feel Like You’re Drowning by Tommy Nelson and Steve Leavitt

Walking on Water

Hope is a key to carrying on and is a truth that is ultimately found in the life-changing message of the gospel.  In Walking on Water When You Feel Like You’re Drowning: Finding Hope in Life’s Darkest Moments, Tommy Nelson and Steve Leavitt call readers to hang on to hope in the midst of the darkness of their struggles.  Nelson and Leavitt seek to address the darkness of depression, anxiety, OCD, and perfectionism and lead readers to find biblical hope and encouragement in their struggles.

Walking on Water is an intensely personal book in which the personal narratives of the authors’ own personal struggles drive the storyline of the book.  As people who have struggled with the darkness, the authors can help lead their readers to hope and freedom.  In addition to sharing personal struggles and failures, the authors also helpfully address the topics of anxiety and depression in a holistic way.  These are struggles that contain mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual elements.  The authors do not shy away from any of these factors and seek to lead readers to personally evaluate how each of these factor into their own personal struggles with darkness.

After defining the darkness, Nelson and Leavitt provide practical steps to begin the path to healing.  This path involves allowing yourself to be defined by the truths of God’s Word as opposed to your own performance, getting help from others, setting boundaries, possibly getting medical help, and living for the future.  This path to healing is practical and based on the authors’ personal experiences of finding hope in the midst of darkness.

In a Christian culture that tends to ignore darkness, depression, and anxiety, Nelson and Leavitt engage this important topic by creating a helpful resource for those fighting through the darkness and those who care for and minister to them.  You may feel like you are drowning, but Jesus calls you to experience His hope and to walk with Him on the water through your darkness.

Book Review: The God-First Life by Stovall Weems

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In The God-First Life: Uncomplicate Your Life, God’s Way, Stovall Weems seeks to provide a beginners guide to the Christian faith that is grounded in the truth of Matthew 6:33Open Link in New Window.  Weems writes of the importance of building your faith around putting God first in your life and priorities as the simple truth of how to live the Christian life.

Weems’ book faithfully works out the implications of a God-First Life by exploring the newness of life that comes with a relationship with Jesus.  Because of Jesus, Christians have new priorities, a new family, a new life, and a new freedom.  Throughout the book, Weems does an effective job of linking Christian living, having a God-first life, to the new status that we have as believers because of our relationship with Jesus.  This helpfully steers readers towards an approach to faith centered in a life-giving relationship with Jesus as opposed to a life-zapping religious approach of trying to follow all the rules.  This biblical truth is something that many Christians miss when it comes to the topic of Christian living.

The God-First Life effectively encourages Christian community in a local church as well as finding freedom from your past, freedom in your present, and freedom for your future in Jesus.  These are very practical and life-giving topics that help to ground readers in the freedom and community found in the gospel.  Weems clearly shows his readers that their new identities in Jesus will change everything about how they view their lives in community and the freedom Jesus brought them at the cross.

Stovall Weems writes a compelling book for practical Christian living in The God-First Life.  This is a good resource for new believers that helps to ground them in their new identity and new life in a relationship with Jesus.

Just Give Me Jesus

As I walked the streets of Cuenca, Ecuador today, I was reminded of God’s faithfulness and sovereignty. Since I have a type A personality, I enjoy being in charge, making a game plan, and watching the game plan unfold, but today God determined that His game plan was better than mine.

Our team was on a limited timeframe, and we were walking to have a follow up discipleship meeting with a new believer. This enthusiastic man approaches me and grabs my hand. I was kind of concerned about random people running up to me because I was approached by a very intoxicated man yesterday. The drunk man grabbed my hand, told me I had beautiful eyes, and other things that I could not determine through my translators laughter. But today, the man was not a drunkard, but he was a seeker sent by God.

As the man grabbed my hand, he asked my translator if I was a pastor from the States. He then asked us to go to his sister’s store to share Jesus with him and his family. I have been on numerous mission trips and things like this don’t normally happen. Once we arrived at the store, I shared with the family the gospel message, and they all came to believe. The enthusiastic man then joined our Bible study this evening. He is excited about the gospel and is seeking to make disciples of people in his community.

Today, I was reminded that God is the One who really gets to determine the game plan, and that even though I sometimes struggle to understand the upcoming plays, He is working out all things for His glory and my good. I was also reminded that people don’t need church buildings, materials, programs, and training to come to know the life changing power of the gospel – the call of the man is the call of the lost everywhere – “Just give me Jesus!”

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Book Review: I Am A Church Member by Thom S. Rainer

In I Am a Church Member, Thom S. Rainer presents a short guide for church members that clearly explains the biblical approach to church membership.  Rainer focuses on shifting church members mindsets from that of a consumer and taker to that of a giver and investor.  In his thesis statement in the introduction, Rainer clearly addresses this mindset shift:

“God did not give us local churches to become country clubs where membership means we have privileges and perks.  He placed us in churches to serve, to care for others, to pray for leaders, to learn, to teach, to give, and, in some cases, to die for the sake of the gospel.” (p. 6)

The book goes on to address biblical church membership by describing it through a church member pledge.  This church membership pledge consists of the following ideas:

  • I will be a functioning church member.
  • I will be a unifying church member.
  • I will not let my church be about my preferences and desires.
  • I will pray for my church leaders.
  • I will lead my family to be healthy church members.
  • I will treasure church membership as a gift.

I Am a Church Member is a short, simple, and biblical resource addressing a topic that is frequently misunderstood in the church today.  Rainer’s resource will be helpful to both Christians who are new to the church and those who have been a part of the church their entire lives.