Spirit Wars by Kris Vallotton

The fact I’ve had this book since March 1, 2012 should offer a hint at what type of review this is going to be.  Spirit Wars by Kris Vallotton is a a fairly in-depth account of the author’s experiences as he’s engaged in spiritual warfare.  I ordered the book two years ago, but I’ve had a hard time going through it – but probably not for the reason most readers would suppose.

Spirit WarsSo let’s get this out in the open: I believe in demonic forces around us, and I believe that we are living in a world that is at war around us at all times.  And I believe we have a roll to play in that war.  So my frustration with the book actually had nothing to do with the aspect of spiritual war at all.  My frustration with the book – and why it’s taken me two years to read through it and finally post a review – is a fundamental belief that Kris has that I’m just not willing to accept yet; it’s regarding our nature as Christians.  This is an area of huge debate in the Christian world, but I’m just not willing to swallow Kris’ assertion (I guess he would say I don’t have enough faith) that we can choose to live a life free of sin.

I get what he says about not having a sin nature that is married to the Law anymore, and I can buy the fact that we are no longer practicing sinners because John as much as tells us that in his letters.  At the same time, I have great difficulty accepting the statement that we can literally go weeks without sinning.  So I’m not accused of taking him out of context, here’s an extended quote from pages 44-45:

This deceptive perception that born-again believers are still sinners by nature raised its ugly head awhile back when I was teaching a group about the divine nature of born-again people.  I was telling the class that we are no longer sinners, but instead have become saints through the power of the cross.  (editorial note: I don’t have a problem with this paragraph).

To illustrate my point, I said, “There is a river that flows through our souls, and it runs toward the throne.  If we don’t paddle, we will end up at God’s house!  You have to make an effort to sin because it is no longer in your nature.”

A tall young man in the middle of the room just could not take it any longer.  He abruptly stood to his feet and with all the passion he could muster shouted out, “Have you ever had a day go by that you didn’t sin?”

“Yes, of course I have,” I shot back.

“How about a week?” he pressed, staring me right in the eyes with a stern look.

“Sure,” I continued, smiling at him.  “In fact, I have gone several weeks in a row without sinning.”

I suppose I could get into an extended theological argument at this point, but I won’t, accept to say that, at least at this point in my Christian walk, I’m not willing to accept that anyone can go for “several weeks in a row” without sinning.  Sinning is more than just what we do, it is also what we don’t do, and what Kris is claiming here is that he has lived – literally – a perfect life for “several weeks in a row.”  Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Is Kris suggesting that for several weeks in a row there he never once broke that law?  He is suggesting that for several weeks he always loved his neighbor as himself and never once allowed the temptation to think more highly of himself to take root?

It’s for that reason I struggle to recommend this book and will be giving it a 1/5 stars.  He bases his entire work on this concept, and I just can’t accept it as true (at least not yet).  And if the foundation is bad, I can’t recommend the builder.

For the record, I did receive a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily favorable, review.


Book Review: Earthen Vessels by Matthew Lee Anderson

This was not one of the easier books I have ever read – in fact, I’ve been at it for months.  To be honest, I just couldn’t get into it.  I ordered the book at the beginning of the year thinking that it was going to be about how we need to take care of our bodies – you know, eat healthy, exercise, etc – and how that was one way in which to honor God (with our bodies).  But it wasn’t.  The book was really more about laying out what I’ll call the theology of the body – addressing some of the false doctrines that remain from the period of the Gnostics (the whole “flesh is bad” thing).  Honestly, what I was looking for was Every Body Matters by Gary Thomas – a book I ordered at the same time and reviewed back in February.  What I got was significantly more academic than I desired, and the focus wasn’t what I was anticipating.  Perhaps that my fault for misunderstanding what was written about the book in its description, but either way I never could get into this book.

I’ll give it 2/5 stars.  For the record, yes I received a free copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest (though not necessarily favorable) review.

Book Review: Now I Walk on Death Row by Dale S. Recinella

If you want to read a book that falls into the category of “I can’t put this one down” then add Now I Walk on Death Row to your summer reading list.  Wow!  How do I summarize this one?  It was, truly, one of those books that once I started to read it I couldn’t put it down.  This is the true-life story of Dale Recinella, a Wall Street finance lawyer, who decides to ask the question, “Does Jesus really mean what he says?”  The answer, he concludes, leads to a transformation in his life that can only be explained as miraculous.  Over time he leaves his work as a finance lawyer and enters the full-time ministry (volunteer, ministry, I might add, not paid ministry) serving “the least of these”.  Mr. Recinella begins by serving the homeless and down-and-out in the inner city where he lives, then transitions to serving AIDS patients, then works with men in prison, and eventually ends up as a volunteer chaplain ministering to the inmates on Florida’s death row.  It is a remarkable journey – one that is a model of what it looks like to “walk by faith and not by sight”.  This book at times made me laugh, cry, and even get angry – it was everything a good book should be.  And to top it all off, it is a true story.  Now I Walk on Death Row challenged me – and will most likely challenge you – to examine if you’re really taking Jesus at his word and if you are truly living the life God has called you to live.  What was shocking (and humbling) as I read the story is not how bad life is for many people in this world, but how ignorant I am of the pain around me and how unwilling I can be to sacrifice my own self to share with them the good news of Jesus’ love.  This book receives 5/5 stars.

Note: I received this book free from the publisher as part of their blogger review program.  I was not required to write a positive review of it.  I am disclosing this to comply with FTC regulations.

Book Review: Deeper into the Word – New Testament by Keri Wyatt Kent

Deeper into the Word – New Testament is subtitled “Reflections on 100 words from the New Testament”, and it is exactly that – reflections.  I have been reading through the book as a devotional – looking at specific words in an effort to better understand the original meanings behind what is written in scripture.  This is not a “Bible Study” book in terms of replacing a good Bible dictionary or or concordance, though it does give some great insights into certain words in the NT, and its use as a devotional tool is wonderful.

While the endorsements on the back of the book claim this book belongs in the reference section of serious Bible students, I believe you’ll better and more thorough sources out there if you’re interested in doing in-depth word studies.  Deeper into the Word will serve as a nice spring-board for your study, and it might help you find some words of interest, but for the person seeking an in-depth reference tool this definitely does not suffice.  Overall I’ll give it 3 out of 5 stars.

I received this book free from the publisher through the Bethany House Publishers 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