Book Review

Review of “Mondays with My Old Pastor” by José Luis Navajo

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“Mondays with My Old Pastor”
by Jose Luis Navajo

Thomas Nelson

Summary

“Mondays with My Old Pastor” is a timely book written to give hope and encouragement to ministers who have burnt-out, or who are burning out. and can be of help to anyone who has ever felt they can’t do anything right, don’t know anything helpful, and are not useful to anyone. It gives refreshment to those who have poured our their lives and find there is nothing left to give. It draws a map for those who have lost their course. Above all, it points us to reigniting our passion for Jesus, the scriptures, the cross and the gospel.

Review

When I got this book I had no idea what I was about to experience, but after reading the prologue my appetite was thoroughly whet and I couldn’t wait to get into it. I have a special perspective on this book because I suffered through a pretty intense burnout a few years ago and was amazed how accurately Pastor José Luis Navajo describes the experience. Though the characters are fictional, the story is firmly grounded in reality and is told deliberately, beautifully, passionately and personally.

Very rarely does a book captivate me in such a way that I don’t want to put it down, but my anticipation only grew as I continued to read because it was like reading my own story – and I have a feeling that anyone who has felt disappointed with themselves, their faith, or their ministry, will experience the same. I don’t know if it is possible for me to be truly objective in my review of this book because it speaks to me close closely (but I’ll try!).

Anyone who has ever longed to sit at the feet of a spiritual master will be captivated by the story of the young pastor and his mentor who is slowly succumbing to life-threatening illness, urgently giving his protégé the hard-learned principles that have governed his life. The helpful and powerful insights come so fast and furiously that they are, at times, overwhelming. This book, full of candid talk and beautiful illustrations, will speak deep into your heart and gently encourage you to lay your pride, idols, doubts and fears at the foot of the cross of Christ. Navajo gave voice to struggles and concerns I have had for many years, but never had the words to articulate, and then comforted me by showing me how to bring them to Jesus. Just when the theology and practical truths are almost too much to process, Navajo tells a story which draws the reader back to reality and grounds the lofty thoughts somewhere we can reach them. The narrative of the interplay between the young and the old pastor is used as a great device for tying the chapters together and generating the desire to keep turning pages.

Criticism

There is not much to criticize in this book other than at times the language seems unnecessarily flowery (overly descriptive of certain things not critical to the story) and on occasion the narrative, which is usually grounded in reality, feels fabricated (the characters are amazing in their ability to remember quotes and who they are attributed to) and mystical (there are magical flowers growing outside the front door – I won’t say more, because it will ruin a surprise). None of these issues take away from the fact that this is an amazing book.

Conclusion

Sometimes we go through something we believe no one else can help us with, and which even we ourselves can’t define. All the sincere questions from our family and friends can’t help because we don’t know how to answer them – we don’t know what is wrong. It is a book like this that, when our world is crumbling, gives us the words to describe how we feel and then provides the gentle push we need to cry out to the only One who can hold us together.

Review of "The Purpose Driven Life: Expanded Edition" by Rick Warren

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“The Purpose Driven Life: Expanded Edition”
by Rick Warren
Zondervan

Summary

Have you ever wondered why you are here, why God created you the way He did, in the place you are at, among the people that surround you? Have you ever felt like you were made for something, but couldn’t put a handle on what, why, or how? Have you ever struggled with depression, doubt and self-worth? We all have and Pastor Rick Warren’s book “The Purpose Driven Life” has helped millions of people find answers to those questions with Christ-focused precision, wisdom, sensitivity, and Biblical conviction.

Some Statistics

“The Purpose Driven Life” is the best selling non-fiction hardback of all time. It has sold 32 million copies, been translated into 50 languages and people from 162 different countries have studied it. It was number one on all four major US booksellers lists in 2002 (and then made history by doing it again in March 2005 after hostage Ashley Smith persuaded a captor to release her by reading portions of it) and won the 2003 and 2004 ECPA Christian Book of the Year. (Stats taken from the news release by A. Larry Ross Communications which accompanied the copy of the book I received)

My Bias

Pastor Rick Warren at Saddleback Church.
As soon as I saw this book come up on the list of options for me to review I jumped at it. Partially because I wanted to see the updated version, but mostly because it is a perfect excuse to once again recommend and sing the praises of a book that has touched my life so deeply.
I have appreciated Rick Warren’s ministry for a long time, ever since I was first introduced to him through this book 10 years ago. Though we have never met, he has blessed me personally, developed me spiritually, and equipped my ministry many times over. So yes, I’m a fan, and I couldn’t wait to get this book. It is the only book in my library of which I have extra copies to give away. I’ve read it cover to cover multiple times, taught it in small groups, and continuously pull it off the shelf to read portions of again. I can’t think of another book, outside of the Bible, that God has used to shape me more.

Why Another Version?

When it came up in the review list my first thought was “It’s been 10 years already? Wow, I’m old.” My next thought was, “I wonder why they are releasing this again? Hasn’t everyone read it by now? Isn’t it still in every book store in the world?” My questions were answered by Pastor Rick on page 15 of the book where he says,

“Recently a 22-year-old named Mark connected with me through social media and asked ‘How do I know what my purpose in life is?’ As we chatted, I learned that his parents had read this book, but he had not read it, since he was only 12 years old when it was published. Every new generation must rediscover God’s purposes for themselves.”

“Aha!”, I thought, “That makes so much sense!” I remember how much this book impacted me when I was 24, and I’m glad that I have a new version of this book to pass along.

Review

The first impression I had of the new “The Purpose Driven Life: Expanded Edition” was how beautifully crafted, designed, printed and organized it is. It is a very beautiful book, just to look at. It is not only gorgeous, but savvy — this is how books should be written in the 21st century. Each day has a special QR code (specially designed pictures which a smart-phone can use to access a website) which link to short introductory videos, audio sermons (a full hour sermon for every day!), special notes and an online support community. Check this link to Day 1 out.
Originally this book had 40 days, but this new version has 42. Pastor Rick has added two days [the Envy Trap (“I must be like you to be happy”) and the People-Pleaser Trap (“I must be liked by you to be happy”)] which are meant to combat what he calls “two giant problems or traps that keep most people from living the life God planned for them to live.” (quoted from the day 41 video introduction). These two chapters alone are worth the price of the book.
This is still a great book, and the new additions make it even better.

Conclusion

The one word I would use to describe this book is — “potent“. Each day is full of wisdom, biblical insight, pastoral love, practical help and critical information that will help you move closer to Jesus and bring more joy into your life. There are literally paragraphs within this book that will change your life. There are phrases within this book that you will carry with you forever. If you let it, God can use this book to help you live out His purpose for you.
If you haven’t read this book, get it and read it. If you’ve already read it, it’s time to read it again.

Review of "Thirty Days in the Land with Jesus" by Charles H. Dyer

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Thirty Days in the Land with Jesus
A Holy Land Devotional*
by Charles H. Dyer
Moody Press

Summary

Charles H. Dyer invites us to take a guided tour of the life, ministry and homeland of Jesus Christ. His passion for making scripture come alive by contextualizing the events in the life of Christ gives the reader a new-found appreciation for the gospel writers and a strengthened faith as their faith in Jesus is strengthened and they learn over and over that every word of the Bible can be trusted.

Review

I’ve never been to Israel, but this book is so beautiful, alive, and meaningful, that I almost feel as though I have. Dyer is an excellent author who’s style is personal, captivating and exciting. He writes as a tour-guide would speak, pointing out details that many would overlook to show the historical, geographical and personal significance that each location holds. He helps us to see the accuracy and trustworthiness of scripture, and encourages us to put our lives into the hands of the Jesus we read about in the Bible.

In the introduction to the book Dyer encourages the reader to read the book “slowly, deliberately, thoughtfully” and I’m very glad I took his advice because it would be impossible to process the weight and meaning of all that he presents in one sitting. It’s not that the amount of information is overwhelming, or it is told in a dry way, but that there are so many “wow!” moments along the way. There were days that brought such powerful new insights to familiar scriptures that I ended up setting the book onto my lap and pondering the significance of what I just learned. Dyer brings to the reader knowledge which only a master student of the scriptures with first hand knowledge of the Israel would be able to give. I know and love Jesus more as a result of reading this little book.

Criticism

That said, it took me until day eight to fully appreciate this book, for two reasons. First, there were some days that the photograph seemed disconnected from the content of the chapter. For example, on day 4 Dyer spends paragraphs describing the geography of Nazareth and then shows a picture of a tree. Yes, he mentions a tree on the next page, but it’s not photo I was hoping to see – also, why isn’t the picture on the next page?

My second issue was that I couldn’t figure out who the intended audience of this book should be. The devotional portion of each day seemed light compared to the heavy content I just learned in the chapter. I have the feeling that a new Christian will appreciate the simple devotional portions but won’t have a full appreciation of the content, while a more mature Christian will eat up the geographical insights but be disappointed by the devotional applications.

Despite the disconnected content, I do recommend this book as a valuable resource and plan to pass it around to those who want to know more about trusting the Bible and the life of Jesus.

* I received a free copy of this book through the Moody Publishers Blogger Review Program

Review of "Twelve Unlikely Heroes" by John MacArthur

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This is my first official book review, so I would love some feedback.

Twelve Unlikely Heroes

How God Commissioned Unexpected People in the Bible and What He Wants to Do with You

By John MacArthur

Summary

If there’s one the success of The Avengers movie taught us, it’s that we love heroes — and the bigger, the stronger, the flashier, the better! However, scripture doesn’t classify heroes the same way we do. In the introduction to this book John MacArthur quotes 1 Corinthians 1:27 (“God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise…”) and then goes on to give twelve powerful examples of what heroism really looks like. MacArthur gives hope to those of us who look at ourselves and wonder how God could possibly use us to serve His kingdom and bring Him glory. This book isn’t about heroes that wear capes and fight crime, its about people with “a rock-solid confidence in God and a willingness to live according to His word no matter the consequences.” (Pg. XII)

My Review

I have to admit that I was very much anticipating Booksneeze.com sending me this book (I’m a blogger and I get them for free). I appreciate John MacArthur’s ministry, love to read biographies of scriptural characters and recently preached a series on “The Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11, so I was primed and ready to learn more. I was not disappointed.
The are so many things to learn when we mine out the details of scripture, and I’ve been mightily blessed by authors who are able to go beyond the surface lessons and obvious conclusions to show us a God who works in the smallest details, through every part of the story, and with characters who don’t immediately jump off the page. John MacArthur is one of those authors.
MacArthur is a pastor-teacher and a great storyteller who has a gift for relating complicated information in an interesting, accurate and practical way that hits me right where I live. This book is ripe with deep theology, biblical exposition, historical context and big ideas, but not cumbersome to read. He tells these familiar stories in a captivating way that touches my heart, stirs my spirit, and makes me want to keep reading.
A book like this can help us forgive others and trust God more because it helps us appreciate differences, embrace the belief that God has a bigger plan, and can do good things with tough situations. It reminds us that the only perfect person in the bible was Jesus, and everyone else made some big mistakes — yet God still chose to work through them — and can also work through us. It tells that God is unexpected, unpredictable and unprecedented in how He operates. His ways are not our ways, but His track record is astonishing!

A Missed Opportunity

Though I enjoyed this book immensely, found it helpful, and recommend it highly, there was something that bothered me. Certainly, God is the motivating force of each person in this book, but MacArthur isn’t explicit enough about pointing to Jesus as the perfect example of what these folks are meant to embody. In fact, Jesus is presented more as an under-currant rather than wind that could have driven the sails of this book.
MacArthur makes some wonderful points, and directs us straight to God, but I believe he stops one base short of a home run. Instead of making his main point “How can we imitate the faith of Enoch (or Miriam or James)?” I believe he should have closed each chapter by asking “How can we be like this person as they are like Jesus?” Even during the stories of John the Baptist and James, Jesus is presented as a figure in the story rather than the central figure of the story. Again, even though this is a good and helpful book, emphasizing that would have turned a triple into a home-run.

I review for BookSneeze®