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: Renovate by Leonce Crump

Renovate- Leonce Crump

How does the power and presence of the gospel enter into a city and bring real, transformational change?  This is the premise behind Pastor Leonce B. Crump, Jr.’s book Renovate: Changing Who You Are By Loving Where You AreRenovate weaves together Crump’s own personal journey as a church planter in inner city Atlanta alongside the things that God has shown him while seeking to live missionally in his neighborhood in a book that challenges each of his readers to truly embrace the gospel by investing in others.

Crump effectively encourages his readers of the incarnational ministry of Jesus- He came to live among us in order to invest in our lives.  It is by embracing Jesus’ model of ministry that we can truly effect change and gospel impact to those around us.  Crump reminds us that as Christians we are sent into the places where God has put us and may be sending us in the future.  In these places where we find ourselves, we must live like missionaries by seeking to understand the culture and its needs prior to proposing our own solutions to the culture’s problems.  In seeking to minister in a place, Crump reminds us that it takes time to see impact and that investment needs to be for the long haul in a community.  As we seek to live as sent ones being intentional to live for the glory of God and the good of the city, we will see God begin to work.

Renovate also addresses some of the racial tensions that we see in our world in a very helpful way.  Through Crump’s own personal story and learnings as an inner city church planter, he articulates some helpful things that members of the predominate culture should consider.  It is through seeking to see the world through someone else’s eyes that true understanding and change can come.

Crump’s call to Renovate is a clear and gospel-focused call to minister to people like Jesus would.  It is a helpful and challenging read for ministers seeking to reach their cities as well as Christians seeking to live on mission in the place that God has planted them.

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: 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.

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: From Tablet to Table by Leonard Sweet

From Tablet to Table

Community and fellowship has always been a distinctive that has marked Christianity.  The table stood at the center of the spiritual story of the people of Israel and also stands at the center of the story of the church.  In a culture filled with the distractions of a digital world, how do we bring the focus on relationships and community back to the center of our homes, churches, and world?  In From Tablet to Table: Where Community Is Found and Identity Is Formed, Leonard Sweet seeks to answer this important question.

The first section of the book “Table It” focuses on Sweet’s own personal experiences with the table, the role of the table in the history of the church, and Jesus’ ministry of the table.  One of the key themes in this segment of the book is the passing on of faith through stories that happens around the table.  Sweet argues that we all desire on the deepest level a “narraphor,” which he defines as “a story made with metaphors that help us understand the world, ourselves, and God better” (p. 3).  Narraphors are the stories we hear around the table that shape our faith, life stories, and identities.  These stories are only found in community and relationship that is created and sustained around the table.

The second section of the book is titled “Life’s Three Tables.”  The three chapters in this section focus on how the teaching and importance of the table impacts the realms of the home, the church, and the world.  Sweet calls for a expression of the faith that invites outsiders into the community of faith and to reach out to others as an expression of our faith.  The diversity of the body of Christ is meant to be pictured around the tables in these three spheres of life.  The table is designed to be a place of ministry to those inside the community of faith and a tool for outreach to those outside the community of faith.

The table is an important place of ministry, mission, faith development, and identity formation.  For many in our culture and world, the table is a place that has been often abandoned.  From Tablet to Table is a helpful and timely call to not forsake the community and connectedness that we were meant to center our lives around.

Book Review: Jesus Continued by J. D. Greear

Jesus Continued

In many Christian circles, the person and work of the Holy Spirit is a neglected and commonly misunderstood truth.  In Jesus Continued…Why the Spirit Inside You Is Better than Jesus Beside You, J. D. Greear presents a challenging, practical, and helpful work to encourage Christians to truly engage with the Holy Spirit.

Greear’s book focuses around the idea that many Christians falsely believe that we would find it easy to follow Jesus if we were like one of His disciples and had Jesus beside us as we walked with Him on our journey of faith.  Using scripture as His foundation, Greear argues that the Holy Spirit inside us is better than Jesus standing beside us.  This truth is shown throughout the Bible from Jesus promising that His followers would do “greater things” because the Holy Spirit would fill them than Jesus Himself had done in His ministry to Jesus’ command for the disciples to wait to fulfill the Great Commission until the Holy Spirit had come upon them.  The Holy Spirit was the One who gave the spiritual power to God’s people to do His work for His glory.

Jesus Continued is broken down into three helpful sections.  The first focuses on the important theological and biblical foundations of the Holy Spirit.  We must know the truths of the scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit before we can engage Him personally.  The second section focuses on areas where we can experience the Holy Spirit.  These areas include: the gospel, the Word of God, our giftings, the church, our spirit, and our circumstances.  These are helpful chapters that give readers practical thoughts on how the Holy Spirit engages us throughout our everyday life.  The final section focuses on how we seek the Holy Spirit.  The final section includes helpful chapters on seeking God, what to do when the Holy Spirit seems silent, and how to experience revival personally and in the church.

Like Greear’s other books, Jesus Continued is a helpful, practical, and gospel-saturated approach to an important biblical topic.  This is another great resource on the Holy Spirit which encourages believers to draw closer to the Holy Spirit through prayer, personal reliance, and seeking His work in us.