“Average Joe” by Troy Meeder

“My concern is that we often forsake the very best things in life for the pursuit of good things…

…I have learned from years of being an idiot that the best thing I can do for my life is to set my eyes on Jesus and walk to His side…

…Life exists in the presence of the King.” — Troy Meeder, author of Average Joe

Troy’s approach to this book is inspiring. What seems to be a book that embraces the fact that many men are ‘average‘ when it comes to things like family, faith, and work — the author challenges the reader to not allow the ‘average‘ label rob you of the greatness we find in a real, fruitful relationship with God.

Troy takes a collection of life experiences and unpacks the life-changing lessons learned through blood, sweat, and tears. From the depths of the ocean floor to soaring high above the Rocky Mountains, the book helps the reader to identify with those same life-lessons that are being revealed to us on a daily basis.

At the end of this book, I desired so much to sit down with Troy on a front porch in Central Oregon and sip an Arnold Palmer as I listen to more of his stories & the nuggets of wisdom expounded from his experience — yet, at the same time, I feel encouraged to go out & capture the moments in my own life that God so desires to reveal Himself & His words of wisdom specifically meant for me.

As I struggle with the mediocrity & mundane I experience in my day job, accompanied by the exhilarating highs I encounter with family & ministry, I realize that God is speaking to me in all of it. I’m faced with choice to settle for good things or press on forward for great things – God’s best for me. The need to rely upon God in all things is reaffirmed in my reading of Average Joe. This is a must-read for anyone that feels they’re drowning in the label of just being ‘average‘.

*** Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Multnomah “Blogging for Books” book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

“More Lost Than Found” by Jared Herd

Why is it that so many young people attend a youth camp when the’re 13, profess Jesus as their Lord & Savior, and then walk out of the church doors at the age of eighteen never to be seen or heard from again?

This is one of the major questions that Jared Herd asks & attempts to answer in his book More Lost Than Found. In his book, Jared likens Jesus to folks like Marilyn Manson — huh?!? what?!? — prominent figures within the fabric of our culture that for many are a “distant memory without much relevance, except when he affects something or someone who does have relevance.” He makes a great point, though — many times Jesus isn’t put on display within our culture unless someone of great importance is tethered to Him in some way… aka Tim Tebow.

On the other hand, I don’t really think that Jesus is placed into a conversation because Tim Tebow is involved. I tend to believe that Tim Tebow is a hot topic because his faith in Jesus is on display. As much as we are questioning if Tebow is the real deal, people are also presented with whether or not God’s favor has been placed on a kid with horrible quarterback mechanics. I digress…

Herd tackles the issues we face within our faith when life presents itself as something other than cookie-cutter. Doubt, disillusionment, and dissatisfaction are things that all of us experience — what do we do when it challenges the doctrine we believe? What do we do when this message of hope & healing is not translated to us in an honest fashion? The author experienced that first hand when his parents went through a painful & public divorce. Our tendency is to depart from a radical truth that possesses the power to change our lives, but apparently didn’t change those that were supposed to be modeling this message. We check out. Not because of Jesus, but because of other stuff.

So what is the solution? Modeling the message is only part of the answer. Obviously, we need to practice what we preach — but Jared proposes that how we preach what we practice (and what God’s Word declares) is critical when we look to pursue people in their 20’s & 30’s (and anyone for that matter). More Lost Than Found encourages the reader to creatively contextualize the gospel message in a way that people cannot deny its effect upon your life. We should look to “renovate” our faith – keeping in mind the vision of the original architect – and avoid demolishing our faith when things are disturbed or disrupted.

We are reminded that “the gift of the Christian faith and its beauty is that it gives us an overarching story that we exist in.” When life has left us wounded, we are prompted to “cling to the basics”. Cling to Jesus.

As a youth pastor (and someone who grew up saturated within the church culture), this book evokes a strong conviction within my soul to proclaim my faith with boldness & diligence that’s cultivated in a creative context. It also challenges me to accept & approach those who have been wounded by the church with compassion. I definitely recommend this thought-provoking book to anyone that is or knows someone who has been hurt by the church. It provides perspective & clarity to issues that can seem vague and/or bleak.

*** Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

I review for BookSneeze®

“Radical Together” by David Platt

“…Unleashing the people of God for the purpose of God…”

 This book is summed up in those ten words… but what is it that we are being unleashed from — and what is the purpose of God???

Platt takes the basic principles from his bestseller Radical & illustrates what that looks like when we, the church, collectively aspire to approach life radically. He provides great insight to mobilizing the local church to accomplish the global mission of spreading the gospel & making disciples. In doing so, we are challenged to take inventory of our lives, ministries, and resources to better further the reach of the gospel unto the ends of the earth.

Radical Together is the real deal & Platt speaks from experience. There isn’t anything in this book that Platt asks you, the reader, to do that he hasn’t already tackled in his own life. From the beginning, he looks at us in the eye & states that we, the church, are those that have willingly lost our lives to follow Christ. We are faced with the idea that if we truly want to be unleashed to ultimately glorify God, then we must let go of ‘good things’ to pursue GREAT things. All that begs us to ask, “are we willing to put everything in our lives on the table for Christ to determine what needs to stay and what needs to go?

He speaks directly to church leaders and exhorts them to raise up people who are captivated by the glory of God that they will ‘gladly lose their lattes – and their lives – to make His greatness known in the world’. He reminds us that prayer is critically essential, not just something we add into the mix.

If you want to make your life count for the global purpose of God and His life-changing gospel, then I recommend you read this book. As someone that has served on the mission-field in a 3rd world country, I found myself re-evaluating my priorities & re-defining my purpose while reading Radical Together. The book provides a great resource for small-group studies and/or home fellowships within a church.

*** Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Multnomah “Blogging for Books” book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Book Review: “The Christian Zombie Killers Hanbook” by Jeff Kinley

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“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.” — Ephesians 2:4-5

“The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook: Slaying the Living Dead Within” is pretty much two books in one. Kinley starts off with a fictional narrative where a zombie strain has infiltrated human society. Over the course of several ‘episodes’ he unpacks the story of Ben, the protagonist, and the history of the zombie disease.

Intermixed with these ‘episodes’ are chapters discussing how man’s sin nature is personified with having a zombie inside each of us. These chapters are where Kinley does his best work. Over the course of the book Kinley touches on creation, fall, redemption and the end times, while continually tying it back to his zombie theme throughout.

The fictional narrative seemed, at first, to just shuffle along, but by the end had taken on a life it’s own. I came to appreciate Ben, his family and co-workers and I found myself longing to read more about their world and the exploits of the Zombie Task Force.

Kinley takes a strong stance on how broken everyone is. There are definitely strong stated theological concepts communicated throughout the book, but that alone is actually the most refreshing aspect to consider – despite the consequences that proceed our brokeness.

This book is everything the title & awesome cover begs to convey — controversial, disturbing, and full of carnage. If you are not willing to be challenged mentally and/or theologically, then maybe this book isn’t for you, but if you seek to examine what’s consuming you every day, then I encourage you to read Christian Zombie Killers Handbook.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”