To be a writer…

I’ve not been terribly active on any of my blogging sites for quite some time, and without looking at my list of posts, I’m confident that at least the last dozen on this blog have been book reviews. Not unimportant in my mind, but also not fully in keeping with what I intended this site to be. And for that I apologize.

I recently put up a post on my general blog about struggling with dissatisfaction (http://www.jwexperience.com/2017/04/14/a-long-break/). My wife and I have had some discussions lately and have come up with a few reasons we as Christians might experience dissatisfaction. Sometimes it’s God nudging us to shift our focus because something different is in the works. Other times it’s a reminder to realign our priorities because we’re actually doing what we should be and have lost sight of that.

When it comes to writing, you have to write. I still want to be a writer, but I can’t say that I’ve put in the time to rightfully claim that title. And I’m working to fix that.

I’ve used a lot of excuses about being busy, but much of my busyness has been really wasted time. Deleting games from my phone is a step in regaining some of that time; you may not need to take that step yourself, but it is necessary for me.

I’m in the middle of building a dedicated office space in my basement. Is this absolutely necessary? In the strictest sense, no, I don’t think so. Will it be helpful to have a space dedicated to a few specific tasks? Ideally, yes. The space I’m building is intended to be a spot where I will write, study, and record my podcast (Bite-Sized Theology, found on iTunes or your favorite podcast catcher). By allowing my office to serve only certain functions, I hope to stay on task with those functions and be present with my family when I am not working.

This won’t be an overnight fix, but experiences at my job make me think that having structure, deadlines, and enough tasks to stay occupied will actually improve my time management and allow me to see a level of productivity that I have not witnessed in my writing life.

Stay tuned. I look forward to sharing my progress and my stories.

Book Review: The Resurrection Fact – Responding to Modern Critics

Title: The Resurrection Fact: Responding to Modern Critics
Edited by: John J. Bombaro & Adam S. Francisco
Publisher: NRP Books (August 21, 2016)
Language: English
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Pages: 248

In The Resurrection Fact, eight authors take on various modern skeptic thoughts that contradict a literal risen Christ. These skeptics include Robert Price, Bart Ehrman, John Dominic Crossan, Michael L. Martin, Matthew McCormick, Jonathan Mumme, and Gerd Lüdemann. Some of the arguments against a risen Christ I have heard before, and a few I had not, but all were handled in exemplary fashion.

The book is well-written and a relatively quick read, at least if the reader has a reasonable familiarity with theology and theological terms. I believe the third chapter was the one I found the most technically challenging in terms of vocabulary, and that also contained the counter-resurrection arguments with which I was least familiar.

Perhaps the biggest complaint I might offer about this book is that probably 65-80% of the material has been covered in other resources I have read. Not all apologetics books cover the same narrow topics, and apologetics covers such a broad range of topics that no tome could satisfactorily cover every possible topic and argument. Still, I would rather have this volume in my library sitting next to other volumes that share a large amount of material than miss out on what is unique in this work.

All in all, I would give this book a 5/5 rating.

Note: I received a free copy of this book through Cross-Focused Reviews in exchange for my fair and honest review. I was not required to provide positive feedback.


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Book Review: Christ All Sufficient

Title: Christ All Sufficient: An Exposition of Colossians
Author: Brian G. Hedges
Publisher: Shepherd Press (September 30, 2016)
Language: English
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Pages: 176

Christ All Sufficient is a relatively quick read if you don’t linger too long to contemplate the truths pointed out by author Brian G. Hedges. The front cover declares this book to be an exposition of Colossians, which it is, but don’t let that scare you: this is not a technical commentary on the epistle, but a conversational working through of Paul’s letter. This is something I find to be of immeasurable benefit. Hedges writes with the heart of a pastor seeking to make Scripture accessible and alive to all, not just the scholars. He also brings out how this epistle is relevant and applicable to our lives today.

I think Christ All Sufficient and books like it make for tremendous resources to begin assisting in Bible study. More technical and in-depth commentaries will of course help the student explore the Greek in great detail, but Hedges’ book will help maintain a focus on the heart of the text.

Overall, I’d give this book a 5/5 rating.


Note: I received a free copy of this book through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my fair and honest appraisal. I was not required to provide positive feedback.

Book Review: Marry Wisely, Marry Well: A Blueprint for Personal Preparation

Title: Marry Wisely, Marry Well: A Blueprint for Personal Preparation
Author: Ernie Baker
Publisher: Shepherd Press (August 1, 2016)
Language: English
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Pages: 185

EDIT: I thought I has posted this review back in October when my Amazon review went live. Apparently that was not the case. Anyway…

This is a book I wish I had been able to read when I was nearing the end of my high school days. I spent my first year of college at a Bible college (commonly referred to as the “bridal” college because of the number of students who got married there), and I had an expectation that I, too, would meet my wife there. Looking back, I was definitely not ready, and I think reading this book would have helped me identify that fact.

Mr. Baker uses the analogy of building a house when it comes to marriage. Like any structure, the first and most important element is the foundation. If you are still single, I would highly recommend picking up a copy of this book and checking to see how prepared you are for marriage. Your single years can and should be used to set patterns that will be followed during the rest of your life. An appendix provides a preparation project that will help you understand if you are ready for marriage at this stage in your life.

Married couples will also benefit from this book. No matter the condition of your marriage, it can always be better. And if your marriage is in trouble, it is never too late for God to work in your lives and heal the damage.

This book is engaging, well-written, and biblically sound. I would rate it 5/5.


Note: I received a free copy of this book through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my fair and honest appraisal. I was not required to provide positive feedback.

Book Review: The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life

Title: The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life: Connecting Christ to Human Experience
Author: Jeremy Pierre
Publisher: New Growth Press (October 3, 2016)
Language: English
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Pages: 288

In The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life, Jeremy Pierre reminds us that people are multi-faceted beings existing in more than the immediate moment or context. However, many will look at a single action (a father yells at his child for having a messy room, a wife cries when her husband works late, a child takes a toy away from his sibling) and attempt to address only that particular issue/instance without looking to the various elements that combined to bring about the situation in question. This is where many counselors fail their counselees, seeking to correct behavior without getting to the underlying contributing factors.
The Christian should understand that there is a spiritual element to man, and it is ultimately this level that needs to be addressed. If someone has a faulty view of God, his or her responses will be shaped in error. Additionally, our views and responses are influenced by the various circles with which we identify (culture, ethnicity, education, career, family, church).
Pierre’s call is for counselors to dig deep and help counselees not only gain an understanding of how their outside influences affect their lives but respond rightly to them and not allow them to lead away from biblical living.
The information given is not new or groundbreaking, but it is good for all Christians to remember. Overall, I’d rate this book 4/5.

Note: I received a free copy of this book through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my fair and honest appraisal. I was not required to provide positive feedback.


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Book Review: Portraits of Faith

Portraits of FaithTitle: Portraits of Faith: What Five Biblical Characters Teach Us about Our Life with God
Author: Joel R. Beeke
Publisher: Reformation Heritage Books (December 31, 2015)
Language: English
Formats: Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle
Pages: 104

Author and pastor Joel R. Beeke brings thoughts to bear on characters from Scripture with whom many of us are at least familiar, if not intimately acquainted. After a brief introduction addressing the question “What is faith?”, he moves on to four types of faith: Childlike faith, characterized by Adam and Eve; Submissive faith, demonstrated by the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4); Mature faith, as shown by the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15); and Persevering faith, lived out by Caleb (Numbers 13 and 14). I appreciated that Beeke wrote about people who don’t often get a lot of exposure; it’s easy to get caught up in the “giants” of faith like Abraham and forget that those who may not have much presence in Scripture still have things to teach us.

This little book is a quick read, but it is worth adding to your library as a reminder that even your faith may be encouraging to someone out there. I’d easily rate this short volume 5/5.

Note: I received a free copy of this book through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my fair and honest appraisal. I was not required to provide positive feedback.


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Book Review: Why bother with church?

Why bother with churchTitle: Why bother with church? And other questions about why you need it and why it needs you
Author: Sam Allberry
Publisher: The Good Book Company (March 1, 2016)
Language: English
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Pages: 95

This quick-reading little book is a good introduction to the question, “Why should I bother with church?”. It is by no means exhaustive on the matter, but the author provides several reasons why Christians ought to be involved in a local assembly (remember, “church” is not the building, it’s the people): it’s a particular gathering of believers, an outpost in a dark world, both a family and an embassy, and the bride of Christ. The author points out that you can’t come to Christ without coming to His people, for Christians are all baptized into one body; that you can’t serve Christ without serving His people; and that you miss out on a great deal of Christian life if you are not involved.

Allberry moves on to discussing what makes up a good church (apostolic teaching, partnership, worship, and growth) and provides some guidelines for picking a local assembly with which to fellowship. He offers a brief discussion of different models of church government and how the leadership may be set up without claiming one particular method as being superior to the rest.

This book is obviously meant to be a primer on the subject, and in that respect, I feel that it has excelled. It is also part of a larger series, as indicated by the cover art, and I am curious to see how the other topics are handled.

Overall, I’d rate this book 5/5.

Note: I received a free copy of this book through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my fair and honest appraisal. I was not required to provide positive feedback.


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Book Review: Miracle of Israel

Miracle of IsraelTitle: Miracle of Israel: The Shocking, Untold Story of God’s Love for His People
Authors: Gary Frazier & Jim Fletcher
Publisher: New Leaf Press (March 4, 2016)
Language: English
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Pages: 192

This book is not so shocking, nor does it reveal an untold story. What it does, however, is serve as a great summary of the history of the nation of Israel from the time of Abraham; through the time of the judges, Saul, David, Solomon, the prophets, and the time of Christ until now, as well as looking ahead to the future of Israel as laid out in the Bible. Anyone looking at the history of Israel should absolutely consider it a miracle that the nation even exists with the unbelievable amount of persecution that the Jews have endured over the millennia.

Miracle of Israel is not an in-depth treatise on the subject but is a decent introduction to the topic. The book includes six appendices with some interesting material, though these are also quite short. All in all, I would rate this book 4/5, worth a read, solid info, but plenty of room to expand.

Note: I received a free copy of this book through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my fair and honest appraisal. I was not required to provide positive feedback.


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Book Review: Counseling One Another

Counseling One AnotherTitle: Counseling One Another: A Theology of Interpersonal Discipleship
Author: Paul Tautges
Publisher: Shepherd Press (February 29, 2016)
Language: English
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Pages: 195

Have you ever been part of a church where you were just one more body in the pew? One more donation to the offering plate? A face in the crowd that no one knew? Did you ever think that there was something wrong about that?

While I am not one to promote the current trend of making church “relevant”, I understand that at least part of what is driving people away from the church in this day and age is a lack of relationship. This book provides part of the answer to that.

Readers should not be scared off by the title, Counseling One Another. The author is not suggesting that we all have little offices with couches and have each other over day after day for a good cry followed by some advice with a smattering of biblical platitudes thrown in. Rather, we should all be actively engaged in the lives of our fellow believers with the goal of helping each other be conformed to the image of Christ. Discipleship is another way that we could label these practices, although there may be times when reaching into each others’ lives will involve calling out sin.

I’ve read several books on counseling lately, and each one is driving home the point that the American church, by and large, is totally disconnected from itself. This is an issue that must be addressed, and this volume by Dr. Tautges is a great place to start.

All in all, I would rate this book 5/5.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review. I was not required to provide positive feedback.


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Book Review: Biblical Counseling and the Church: God’s Care Through God’s People

Biblical Counseling and the ChurchTitle: Biblical Counseling and the Church: God’s Care Through God’s People
Author: Bob Kellemen (General Editor), Kevin Carson (Managing Editor)
Publisher: Zondervan (November 3, 2015)
Language: English
Formats: Hardcover, Kindle
Pages: 496

This is a fair-sized tome, but it is worth reading. What I am encountering more and more as of late is an emphasis on lay-counseling within the church, not merely placing that burden solely on the shoulders of the pastor(s) and/or church staff, and this book provides a lot of practical guidelines in training members of the local church to be able to counsel biblically and effectively.

As stated on the back cover, the point of all this is to equip a congregation “to be a family where every member is empowered to speak the truth in love so your entire church matures in Christ.” I have come to greatly respect this type of attitude and teaching because I have attended churches where no one seemed interested in anyone else’s lives outside of the worship service, let alone the spiritual growth and maturity of anyone there.

Not everyone who is trained as a counselor will be able to address every possible issue that arises, and there may be a need for professional counseling to take place; that is something that should not ever be overlooked. However, I wonder if many big problems requiring the input of a full-time and/or professionally trained counselor might not be nipped in the bud if the church was actively involved in the lives of all its members. At any rate, I trust that anyone reading this book will gain a deeper love and concern for their fellow believer and would recommend it be placed in the library of every local assembly.

Overall, I give this book a 5/5 rating.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review. I was not required to provide positive feedback.


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