Saturday, January 5, 2013

Reviewing Ted Kluck's Hello, I Love You: Adventures in Adoptive Fatherhood

Although Hello, I Love You was written more than two years ago, I wasn't aware of it until a couple of weeks ago. In a few weeks my wife and I will be adopting our third child from China so reading Mr. Kluck's book during the Christmas break was perfect timing. Hello, I Love You is quite different from other adoption books I've read. This 190-pager is written by a Christian thirty-something guy who speaks quite candidly about the challenges of international adoption, infertility, communication, the church, and more. It's both humorous and raw.

The 11 chapters are divided into two parts. Part 1 is entitled Tristan which is the name of the first child the Klucks adopted from Ukraine. Part 2 is entitled Dima which is the name of the second child the Klucks adopted Ukraine. Mr. Kluck is quite frank about not always enjoying the way things operate in the Ukraine, and I could see some Ukrainians being offended; however, Mr. Kluck has good things to say about the Ukraine as well. Adopting children is not always a smooth process, and that is certainly the case here. Reading about Kluck's two international adoptions made me extremely thankful for not having to face their trials. It was also good to read that Mr. Kluck is fully aware that complaining is sinful, and that he understands that his wife has been so patient with him. I can more than relate to these things.

If you are looking for a book that talks about how everything about adopting children is beautiful, this is not the book for you. If you are interested in reading what international adoptions can be like and feel like, especially if you're a man, I recommend Hello, I Love You. Although I was disappointed not to read about the completion of a third adoption, I know the story has not ended.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Reviewing Stephen Altrogge's Create: Stop Making Excuses and Start Making Stuff

Stephen Altrogge blogs over at www.theblazingcenter.com, and I frequent his site regularly. I have enjoyed listening to his music as well. Create is the first book I have read of Mr. Altrogge's, and like his blog, Create is packed with wit and truth. Since the book is only 43 pages long and written in a conversational manner, reading it will probably take you very little time.

Create is not only designed for art majors like my wife, but it's also designed for people like me who think concretely and enjoy predictability. It doesn't matter what your profession is, this book can bless you. Create is designed to help you see that all of us have creative abilities. People not only create magnificent paintings and sculptures, but we create professional documents, delicious meals, fun presentations, and inviting homes. A big part of this book is to encourage you to get off your butt and start creating. Mr. Altrogge does this in an encouraging way and not like a crazy drill sergeant. Create is written from a biblical perspective so you'll find Scripture references throughout the book.

A minor criticism of the book is I felt Mr. Altrogge became a little repetitive in an attempt to motivate us to start creating. He does quote a couple authors who have views that greatly differ from the reformed faith; however, much can be learned from them. Overall, I think Create can be a very good read for people who lack some confidence and need a little push. It's also serves as a good reminder that we have been given abilities to make creative contributions that can bless others and give God all of the glory.

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:6-8


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Reviewing David Gregory's Night With A Perfect Stranger: The Conversation That Changes Everything

Several years ago a friend gifted me with David Gregory's bestseller, Dinner with a Perfect Stranger. I enjoyed the book so much that I read the sequel, A Day with a Perfect Stranger. I rarely read fiction, but since I liked Gregory's first two books in the series (and because the book was only a few bucks), I downloaded this third book. Part of the reason the Perfect Stranger series have appealed to me is because they have been a break from the typical reading I do.

The basic premise of Night with a Perfect Stranger is a businessman, Nick, has a second face-to-face encounter with Jesus. Although Nick grew in his faith after meeting Jesus at an Italian restaurant six years ago, he had not been growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus in recent years. Things changed for Nick after he got in another conflict with his dad and while driving home, Nick's U-Haul truck runs out of gas. Jesus shows up with a gas can and hops in the truck. It sounds pretty cheesy, but Gregory did enough to keep me intrigued.

As far as the theology in Night with a Perfect Stranger, there were some statements in the second half of the book that were a little confusing and could use some clarification. Some examples include sin doesn't matter as far as God's love, we are brought into the heart of the Godhead to be one with them, being a part of Jesus, and everyone is an expression of Christ. I am sure there will be some thinking I am overanalyzing what many consider to be a light read. Despite what kind of work one categorizes Night with a Perfect Stranger as, a crucial subject matter has been written about so I believe we should properly reflect upon it.

I did initially enjoy reading Night with a Perfect Stranger, but after several chapters of this 12 chapter book (144 pages), I realized I had lost that lovin' feelin'. Along with some of Gregory's unique wording, I feel if I hadn't read the first two books in the series than I would have different thoughts about Night with a Perfect Stranger. A lot of Amazon reviewers gave Night with a Perfect Stranger favorable views, but it should be noted that it appears that many of them did not read the first two books. Night with a Perfect Stranger's familiar formula was fine, but I do not see myself picking up another book like this anytime soon.

Below is a book trailer with some groovy music and footage.



Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Reviewing Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle's Erasing Hell: what God said about eternity, and the things we made up

It is my strong preference to read, talk, and think about Heaven, but it is essential that we also know about Hell. I want to have a proper understanding of Hell for a host of reasons. I read about it regularly in the Good Book, people often talk about it unbiblically, I teach about it occasionally, and Jesus has saved His people from it eternally. I want others to know what it means to call Jesus the Savior of the world therefore I need to learn about Hell. Erasing Hell helped with that.

Erasing Hell is the third Francis Chan book I have read. Like thousands of others, I have greatly benefited from reading his books as well as listening to his sermons. Francis Chan can make challenging topics more understandable, and he has a knack for getting people from both ends of the spectrum to listen. Preston Sprinkle is new to me, but I think he's alright since he rolls with Chan.

Erasing Hell did not get my juices flowin' like some of Chan's other books (Crazy Love and Forgotten God), but the book is solid. Erasing Hell came largely in response to Rob Bell's Love Wins, and Chan and Sprinkle respectfully refute some of Bell's unorthodox teachings. Regardless of whether you are a fan of Bell's teachings, Chan and Sprinkle provide a profitable book about a not so easy topic. You may not always agree with what Chan and Sprinkle say, but they speak humbly and in a manner that can appeal to both seasoned and beginning theologians. Below is how the book is organized as well as a book trailer.

Preface
Introduction
Chapter 1: Does Everyone Go to Heaven?
Chapter 2: Has Hell Changed? Or Have We?
Chapter 3: What Jesus Actually Said about Hell
Chapter 4: What Jesus' Followers Said about Hell
Chapter 5: What Does This Have to Do with me?
Chapter 6: "What If God ...?"
Chapter 7: Don't Be Overwhelmed
Appendix: Frequently Asked Questions
Bibliography
About the Author
About the Coauthor
Sample Chapter from Forgotten God

Reviewing David Murray's Christians Get Depressed Too: Hope and Help for Depressed People

Although I have never suffered from depression, like you, I interact with people who are or have been depressed. Since that is the case, I felt reading a short biblically-based book (128 pages) about depression was something I should do. Christians Get Depressed Too is written by Dr. Murray, an Old Testament and theology professor at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. I have greatly benefited from Dr. Murray's HeadHeartHand blog as well as his resources, How Sermons Work and God's Technology, and now I can add Christians Get Depressed Too to that list. Christians Get Depressed Too is organized in the following manner:

Preface
Acknowledgments
Chapter 1: The Crisis
Chapter 2: The Complexity
Chapter 3: The Condition
Chapter 4: The Causes
Chapter 5: The Cures
Chapter 6: The Caregivers
Appendix: On the Sufficiency of Scripture: Salvation, Sanctification, and Spectacles

Dr. Murray provides a very compassionate view of depression. We must understand that people from all walks of life can and do suffer from depression and at varying degrees. Everyone's mental, physical, or spiritual state must be examined carefully. This includes Christians. Dr. Murray may not be a doctor or psychologist, but the contents of this book are supported by those who are. Dr. Murray has had to communicate with a countless number of depressed people, and he offers practical advice and encouragement. If you are wanting books about depression that are more in depth, the last chapter contains a list of recommendations. If you are depressed, prone to depression, or know of someone that suffers from depression, I believe Dr. Murray's book can provide you some useful information and perhaps a level of comfort.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5