Chicken soup for the Giver’s Soul


I Like Giving - Brad FormsmaI Like Giving by Brad Formsma

The subtitle of the book is ‘Practical Ideas, Inspiring Stories’ and Formsma doesn’t disappoint on either count. I Like Giving is 210 pages of encouragement to engage generous giving as a lifestyle rather than viewing it through the lens of ten percent. The illustrative stories that compose the majority of the book do two things; they primarily give us inspirational stories retelling the giving experiences of the author and others but also provide insight into the long-term effects that giving can have as God works through the provision of others. It is the end-end result that we usually never get to see that is often the greatest benefit of a gift.

The book is a breezy read that will inspire you to take action, even it is just to pass the book on to someone else who might likewise be inspired. Formsma emphasizes that an important line needs to be crossed in our lives, transitioning from thought to action. It’s one thing to be inspired and have your heart warmed and yet another to be inspired, lace up your sneakers and go give. The biblical author James makes the same comment, saying “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?”

I’m grateful to WaterBrook Press who provided this book for review.

Time-Tested Principles

How God Makes Men by Patrick MorleyHow God Makes Men

Patrick Morley

When that moment of crisis arrives and men must make a decision that directs the course of the rest of their lives, will they make that decision on raw emotion or on deep-rooted principles? Men of God are shaped by Him in a variety of ways. Some, or all, of the principles that God uses may apply to you as Patrick Morley writes in How God Makes Men.

As you read the familiar biblical stories of the way in which God has shaped men through history you are sure to see yourself in at least one or two scenarios. Take Job, for example. Casual Bible readers will recognize the story of suffering but might fail to glean the purpose in that suffering. Morley takes men deeper into God’s purpose in Job to show that while it might appear that he suffered for no good reason, there existed a higher purpose to it. Might there be similar purpose in your life.

All of the men that Morley highlights are familiar and their stories well known. He isn’t providing biographical sketches, rather, he is directing our attention to the ways in which God worked in their lives. In doing so, he opens your eyes to the possibility that God might be working in much the same way in yours.

I’m grateful to Multnomah Books who provided this copy for review.

Defining Real Winners

The Real WinThe Real Win by Colt McCoy and Matt Carter

McCoy and Carter save the most important idea for the very last chapter of their book “The Real Win”. In a chapter entitled ‘What You Leave Behind’ the two men’s men finally answer the why question that men will want addressed when called to live as fully devoted followers of Christ. Men will sacrifice and die on a hill far away from home when they have something to believe in and value, but today’s church often fails to give them that reason. When the reader finally turns to the last few pages of the text he reads about the importance of thinking about the end, about the legacy that a man will leave with those he has led and influenced.

“The Real Win” is a call to Christian men to rethink their manhood in light of the word of God. The priorities of God for men of faith differ significantly from the messages that are received from the culture. Winning, for example, is often defined in the world in terms of money, power, authority and accumulation. The Bible, on the other hand, speaks of success in terms of obedience, servanthood and trusting in the providence of an unseen God. Men who follow the biblical proscription will stand out in the world, different as they are.

The authors have balanced the book well, giving the reader an insight into both their successes and failures as men. Rather than showing themselves as supermen who have lived perfectly in the face of the world’s challenges, both Quarterback and Pastor reflect upon the less glorious moments of their lives and what they learned from those experiences. Every page will not resonate with every man and there are some questionable standards espoused. Pastor Carter, as an example, says that he will not hire anyone into a ministry position unless they have wept openly upon reading the Scriptures. This position doesn’t take into account any God-given differences in personality, expression or reception and makes the reader suspect that might be similar legalism buried in the rest of his writing.

The book is a valuable contribution to the efforts to men to live their faith. Reading and talking about their faith is one thing, putting hands and feet and commitment to their stated beliefs is the greater challenge. We pray that men will heed the call.

I’m grateful to Multnomah Books who provided this copy for review.

Back to the Beginning

Insourcing by Randy Pope

“In Him was life, and that life was the light of all men.” John 1:4

Discipleship in recent Christian practice has taken an intellectual bent, focused as it is largely on communicating head-knowledge. This is valuable but rarely results in transformation when not paired with an equal measure of heart-knowledge. When the two disciplines are aligned the exercise becomes the pouring of one life into another. In a secular context, the apprenticeship enables an experienced craftsman to share the process and philosophy of one’s craft with another, coaching and guiding the apprentice to attain to the same level of arts. Jesus modeled the same thing throughout His ministry, pouring His life into a group of men who would one day lead His Church.

Pastor Randy Pope has given us a volume of encouragement entitled INsourcing. Less a manual than it is a memoir, INsourcing details the philosophy underlying the practice of Perimeter Church called Life On Life Missional Discipleship. Pope and his leadership team designed and implemented a way of living the Christian life together that engages both the head and heart to produce disciples prepared to engage the Mission of Christ’s Church.

Pastor Pope doesn’t advocate for his program as though it is the only model to be emulated. Rather, he encourages the reader to examine their own context and to develop a methodical process which fits them best. Emphasizing the tortoise-like pace of true discipleship, Pope’s most valuable contribution is the permission it gives the leader reading the book to take the long view in gaining a vision for what could be.

Readers looking for a plan or a new model should look elsewhere. Leaders seeking an apprenticeship will find INsourcing valuable as God places a vision for their particular context before them. While the vignettes of the small groups are a bit idealized, they provide a powerful parallel to the abstract ideas presented through the surrounding chapters. Closing the book you will be convinced that LOLMD will produce something that no program can do, real disciples of Jesus Christ.

I’m grateful to Zondervan who provided this copy for review.

Tie the Knot Tighter

Bound Together by Chris Brauns

“Our culture idolizes the free-floating, unhindered, and isolated hero cut off from any formal responsibilities. But the Lone Ranger is a lie. Isolated heroes like Jack Reacher do not exist.” Though we may make noises that insist that the culture at large does not affect the Church, this too is a falsehood. This meme of individuality and a disconnection from one another has permeated the pews, and because it has, Christians suffer a great loss. Recovering the idea that we are inextricably bound together for good and bad is the purpose of Pastor Brauns’ excellent book, Bound Together.

Rooting the foundation in the oft-misunderstood recesses of the doctrine of Original Sin, Brauns establishes the nature of our binding, what he names the Principle of the Rope. Though we were not individually responsible for Adam’s failure, we were corporately tainted by his actions, resulting in the same nature and guilt. The positive antidote to the Fall is found in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice benefiting the World, not just you or me.

The book is theologically challenging without descending into seminary speak. The reader will linger in some chapters, especially early on, as the foreign idea of being tied to one another comes set. Building on this baseline, Pastor Brauns’ then applies this corporate notion to our individual lives in a series of chapters that help the reader understand the implications the binding brings to day to day life. Whether it is read all the way through or approached one topic at a time, Bound Together is book [and concept] badly needed in Christ’s people today.

I’m grateful to Zondervan who provided this copy for review.

The god of You

gods at war

by Kyle Idleman

Turning the final pages of ‘gods at war’ prompts the question in your mind, why do I come last? As in, why has Idleman waited until the final few pages to expose the root cause of my ongoing skirmishes with all of the other gods of this world? The answer that he provides brings all of the other enemies into perspective; the god of self is the field officer directing the rest of the pantheon. We are our own worst enemy.

Pastor Idleman turns over no new soil in this book. A quick scan of the table of contents will reveal the walls that you have scaled over and over in your life. Some you have overcome and others, well they continue to sneak up on you when you least expect it. The cohesiveness of these gods is stunning. They are bound together like few other things in this world, and making them more difficult to address is the glue that binds; they all start out as something good that we in our self-centeredness turn bad. It is here that Idleman shines. He absolutely refuses to allow us to point at anything other than our love for self as the reason for this good-bad confusion.

Though it doesn’t stand with ‘Not a Fan’, ‘gods at war’ is a good read and would serve well in a study group. Men will be especially receptive to Idleman’s style and approach as he often portrays himself as having to battle the same false dieties.

Dwelling Forever in the house of god

The Great House of God
Max Lucado

“…I want to come home”, who hasn’t voiced that desire at least once in their life? One of Maslow’s fundamental human needs and a terminal thought, the longing for the security, warmth and familiarity of some place called home is sensed in times good and difficult. For not-yet-God’s-people, the destination called home may be an ill-defined concept but for God’s people, the great promise of being safe and secure in the house of God is a promise that brings calm to discord, raises ones vision from the mire of life and powers the endurance of the soul. Pastor Max Lucado writes longingly of the promise of this abode in his exposition of the Lord ’s Prayer, “The Great House of God”.

Lucado brings his pastoral gifts to the five great verses from Matthew’s gospel, bringing each thought of the praise and petition into full bloom as a chapter of its own. Though brief, the chapters give the reader enough to savor for a week of prayer time. His subtle shifting of emphasis in the opening verse for example-our FATHER and OUR father-can leave you to meditate upon the importance of these words corporately and by themselves. Room by room Pastor Lucado continues the tour until you cannot wait to enter the gates of heaven and settle into the place promised just for you, ‘safe and secure from all alarm’.

If you are not a fan of Lucado’s work, give this book an opportunity. It is not a deep theological tome but that is not his genre. Filled with his trademark folksy charm, it is meant to lift your eyes and heart to the promise of the prayer rather than dwelling on the technical aspects of the verses. I found myself enjoying the chapters and the subsequent reflection so much that it too much longer to read this book than the 160 pages would lead me to expect. Perhaps it is just this that makes the book so good, the slow release of the spiritual nourishment, the savoring of joy and the increased longing for the promise of the great house of God.

The Life Men Want

Man Alive by Patrick Morley

It’s the kind of question that men either ask themselves when they’re alone or refuse to confront altogether. “… would you be willing to go up while everyone else is going down?” The deeper question is whether a man will live a life of meaning, do something important, leave a mark on this world. For men who ache to have this life, Patrick Morley offers this encouraging guide, ‘Man Alive’.

Men will appreciate the short bursts of challenge on these pages that are followed by quiet moments that encourage reflection. The peaks and valleys of the text confront the groups of men who congregate at either end of that spectrum. Those who spend their entire lives nestled in the security of reflection without ever tasting the adventure that awaits them outside the door and those whose adrenaline needle is pegged all the time. These men avoid searching the depths of their character, fearful of what they might find there.

Men were created to know God, to fill the yearning for His presence by living a life of action and reflection in equal measures. Morley outlines the primal needs that lie at the soul-core of every man and inspires them to break out of their culturally bound shells to be what their Father intended for them to be. More than just a series of adventures, ‘Man Alive’ holds up a mirror that reflects the soul deficits of nearly every man and challenges him to look that image right in the eye and be more.

The Secret … Again

The Blessed Church

The Blessed Church by Robert Morris

The simple secret to growing the Church you love; the subtitle sings that sweet siren song that lures so many pastors and church leaders to delve into the pages of books like this. In the era of often relentless pressure to grow the attendance of their church, leaders are always looking for an edge, one method or program that will bring more souls into the seats. Morris’ contribution to the literature is enticing, but the secret is absent.

That there is nothing new here is not Morris’ fault. The biblical path to a sound Christian church is well-trod ground. There are no secrets to be gleaned, only an obedient heart to be followed. Sound, God-given vision, check. Godly, devoted leaders at all levels of the church, check. A healthy pastor, check. Each of the elements that Morris highlights is rooted in Scripture and is supported by engaging writing. But new secrets? No.

Pastor Morris is relentlessly upbeat about the Church and the pastorate, and given the blessed success of Gateway Church, he has every reason to be. Reading the book is uplifting and encouraging and can provide some touch points for the pastor to hold their own ministry against. The one thing that should not happen (though it often does as a result of books/programs like this) is that a minister or leader should attempt to clone God’s work at Gateway. God creates every work for his specific purposes in specific locales to specific populations. Looking at the success or failure of other churches simply draws your eyes away the One leading you.

I am grateful to Waterbrook Press who provided this book for review.