How God Makes Men by Patrick Morley


The author of the classic Man in the Mirror has done it again with his latest book, How God Makes Men.  Patrick Morley is a common name for anyone who’s read books on Biblical manhood in the last decade, and this book is one that every man should read as well.

manhood-not-automaticUsing the stories of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, David, Solomon, Nehemiah, Job, Peter, and Paul, Morley creates a book which allows readers to grow closer to the Lord through the examples these disciples lived.  One of the things I love about the book is it’s emphasis throughout on the grace of God as demonstrated and given through Jesus.  While there are plenty of instances where the book gives very specific (and biblical) calls for action on our part, it is always in response to what God does first.  Morley makes it clear that God doesn’t only use “perfect” men to do his work, but rather meets us where we are at and then moves us to where He wants us to be – and the only thing we need is a willing and surrendered heart.

Speaking of the word surrender, one of my “aha’s” in the book was his distinction and explanation of the difference between the words “commitment” and “surrender”, and his observation that many Americans view their relationship with Christ as one of commitment rather than surrender.  But what Jesus calls us to is not commitment – where everything rests on us – but rather surrender, where everything depends on him.

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At the climax of the book Morley highlights how men mentoring men can have a profound impact on families, churches, and communities.  He doesn’t do this is a chauvinistic way, and neither does he dismiss the roll of women, he simply points out the importance of how God wants to use men to reach the hurting and the lost.  In fact, I truly believe the vast majority of the book is not specific to “men” but rather to followers of Jesus regardless of gender; the exception to that is some very specific instruction regarding the importance and impact men have in the lives of their families and society in general.

To reinforce how much I thought of the book, I actually shared an entire chapter with the leadership team from my church – something I’ve never done before.  Morley’s emphasis on discipleship, particularly men’s discipleship, is demonstrated throughout the book.  I truly believe if what he highlights from scripture were actually put into practice we would see a transformation in our churches and communities.  Morley preaches servant leadership throughout the book, of living a life surrendered to the King of Kings and reaching out to serve and meet the needs of those around us.  Throughout the book he also weaves multiple scriptural references, and none of them were taken out of context.

If you’d like to examine a free copy of the first chapter, visit this link.

Overall, I’m giving this book a 5/5 stars – meaning I highly recommend the book.  For the record, I did receive a free copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily favorable, review.

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Book Review: The Fourth Fisherman


This book was actually a disappointment, and perhaps I’m to blame for that.  I thought the book was going to focus on the story of how three Mexican fisherman survived nine months drifting at sea, but it really focused on telling the changes in how the book’s author, Joe Kissack, was transformed.  Perhaps I should have recognized that since the cover of the book has “How three Mexican fisherman who cam back from the dead changed my life and saved my marriage” written directly under the title, but I didn’t.

The book chronicles the story of Joe Kissack, a man who went from begin a high-ranking executive with Sony Pictures to living like the rest of us.  For the first 15 chapters or so one chapter tells his story and then the next tells the fishermen’s, and then the final 25 chapters focus solely on Kissack and attempt to use his journey to bring the story of the fishermen’s experience to life in a book and movie as an illustration of his own struggles.  But it just wasn’t very successful.  I just expected more focus on the fishermen and was immensely distracted by the self-centeredness of the author in the story.  SPOILER ALERT: DON’T READ THE NEXT SENTENCE IF YOU INTEND TO READ THE BOOK.  He finally identifies himself as the fourth fisherman, which to me seemed like an insult to the three who did survive.  I don’t know, I guess I expected the fourth fishermen to be Christ and for the book to focus on the transformation of them through their Christian faith and the miracle of their survival, but it didn’t.  It basically tells the story of one man who gets consumed with the American dream and then tells how he overcame.

If you’re looking for a story that’s inspirational to say, “Wow – look how God moved!” then this might be worth your time.  If you’re looking for a story to read because you’re going through struggles and you want to know how other people pushed through them to come out okay on the other side, though, you’ll be sadly disappointed.  While Kissack shares that he eventually was transformed, it doesn’t really talk about how he was transformed, offering no model for others to follow.  In fact, I see nothing about the story of the fisherman that related at all to his life at all.  He credits his work with them as transforming him, but I just don’t see, even after reading the book, how his interaction with them was anything transformative (one might even think, based on how he writes, that it was a distraction from what was really important).

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To read the first two chapters for free, visit the book’s website and click on “Click to Start Reading”

I’ll give t 1.5 stars out of five.

For the record, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest (though not necessarily favorable) review.

Book Review: Life in Spite of Me by Kristen Jane Anderson


So here’s the story – and, unfortunately, it’s one I experienced all too often when I served as a school administrator.  Teenage girl suffers with depression; teenage girl decides she wants to kill herself; teenage girl lies down on the railroad tracks to end her life; 33 train cars run over teenage girl; teenage girl miraculously survives.  While I had plenty of students who have threatened to try or have actually tried suicide, none of them succeeded and, thankfully, none of them tried it this way.

But that’s Kristen Jane Anderson’s story.  Life in Spite of Me begins by holding no punches – you enter directly into her decision to take her life and what she experienced underneath that train.  My wife asks why I read books like this – actually, I wanted to read it hoping it would give me a better understanding of what some of my students struggle with (it did), what I didn’t expect was the depth of insight this young lady has.  The book is an amazing story – one I found hard to put down – of God’s grace and goodness.  Kristen uses her experience to now reach out to others all over the country to help combat this growing issue of teens – particularly girls – engaging in destructive behavior.  The book chronicles her recovery, both physical, emotional, and spiritual.  But it doesn’t stop with her recovery – it continues on to what she does now and the ministry she leads reaching out to these young people – if you’d like to visit her ministry’s (Reaching You Ministries) website click here.

I’ll just say that this is a “must read” book for anyone who works with youth.  I’m going to give it 4.5/5 stars.  And, yes, I did receive a complimentary copy of the book in return for an honest (though not necessarily favorable) review.

Book Review: In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson


This is one of those rare books that has an absolutely ridiculous sounding name but is actually very good to read.  In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day is all about seeing your daily struggles as God-ordained opportunities to mature your own faith and grow His kingdom.  The title is a reference to the Biblical character Benaiah, who is found in II Samuel 23:20-21.  Benaiah (for those of us who have never heard of him) was a man who literally killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day – hence the name of the book.

Batterson introduces his thesis by sharing the story of Benaiah and examining it in some detail.  Then he sets out seven skills needed to properly view obstacles as God-ordained opportunities to thrive, spending a chapter examining each one: Overcoming adversity, Unlearning fears, embracing uncertainty, calculating risks, seizing opportunities, defying odds, and looking foolish.  The irony of reading this book for me is that I’ve got a couple of challenges I’m facing now in my jobs, and just last week (before I even picked up the book!) I was sharing with Melissa that while the challenges seem to be great in many ways I also feel that God has placed these in my path for a specific reason.  In short, I feel they are God-ordained opportunities for me to guide and help others while at the same time growing in my own faith.

The only complaint I had about the book is that at times I felt like I was re-reading Soulprint because there were some sections that seemed as if they were verbatim from his previous book (which I reviewed).  Batterson’s style is easy to read and enjoyable yet at the same time he raises some great points which require careful and deep consideration.  I’m going to recommend reading this book if you need help seeing your every-day circumstances as God-ordained opportunities to grow in Him, giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

One disclaimer, I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review, but am not required to post a complimentary review in exchange for it.

Book Review: Awakening by Stovall Weems


Okay, somehow when I ordered this book I missed that it was on fasting.  Ooops!  The book is titled Awakening: A New Approach to Faith, Fasting, and Spiritual Freedom is subtitled 21 Days to Revolutionize Your Relationship with God.    The book is a short and quick read (about only 150 pages for the book itself, then it follows with 21 daily devotionals), but definitely worth the time.

Weems puts a lot of time into developing what he terms the “awakening experience” and laying the groundwork for the need for a 21 day fast.  He also does an excellent job – perhaps the best I’ve read yet (and I’ve read a lot) – on the difference between fasting under the Old Covenant in the OT and the New Covenant in the NT.  His final conclusion is spot on: we fast not to get something from God but to draw closer to Him, and a reminder that God is a filler, not a forcer, but in order for God to fill something we need to first create a void which needs to be filled.

One of the highlights of the book is that each chapter (there are only 12) ends with “An Awakening Story”, or a personal testimony from someone who has undertaken the 21 day fast and grown as a result of it.  Some of the stories were the predictable, miraculous ones one would expect, but others were more down-to-earth.  But all were a reminder that God does work in peoples’ lives in miraculous ways.  The only point of contention I might have with Weems is the huge emphasis he places in the book on the importance of feelings in our walk with God.  Too often feeling are deceiving, and I got the impression at several times that it would be easy to mis-interpret or mis-understand what Weems is saying about following our feelings to justify getting off-track.  But this is a minor issue, and, when viewed through what he says in the rest of the book regarding following the Word of God and setting up boundaries, I believe it would be a gross misrepresentation to twist his emphasis on feelings to justify sin.

One area I wish he would have spent more time in would be when he actually defines and describes beginning a fast.  Weems does a fantastic job for the first 124 pages of establishing the need for prayer, fasting, and Bible study, but then devotes only 20 pages to actually describing the 21 day fast in any detail and only 7 pages actually going into detail about types of fasts and actually deciding how to fast.  Over all, I’ll give this book 4/5 stars.

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One disclaimer, I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review, but am not required to post a complimentary review in exchange for it.

Under the Overpass by Mike Yankosi


Under the Overpass is the story of two college guys who voluntarily decide to live on the streets as homeless men for five months.  They spend between 3-4 weeks each in six different cities so they can experience what it is like to be homeless: Denver, Washington, DC., Portland, San Francisco, Phoenix, and San Diego.  Please note that this review is for the “Updated and Expanded Edition” published in 2010, not the original book published in 2005.

The book itself is an enjoyable read and offers what I can only assume to be an accurate portrayal of life on the streets.  My biggest complaint is that the book was edited to keep out “common street lingo” (as the “Note to the Reader” refers to it).  The authors write, “Vulgarities and crude insults become part of everyday conversation, even between friends.  But out of respect for our readers and the standards of this publisher, this element of street life is not present in the pages you’re about to read.”  My question is, “Why not?”  I’m not suggesting that they litter the book with F-bombs and other inappropriate language, but why shy away from the truth?  There could certainly be ways to use blanks or abbreviations if they wanted to stay away from the actual words.  It’s like trying to act out the story of Jesus but never assigning someone to play Judas.  Sometimes life is ugly and we do an injustice when we display it any other way.

Yankoski does make some great points throughout the book which should make the reader seriously reflect and contemplate how they treat others who are made in the image of Christ.  Let me share a few of my favorite quotes:

“If we are the body of Christ – and Christ came not for the healthy by the sick – we need to be fully present in the places where people are most broken.” (p. 36)

“[O]ur good intentions and sound theology are wasted if those we minister to don’t feel that we care about their immediate concerns.” (p. 37)

“Love can’t cover wrongs if we let frustrations and failures keep us apart.” (p. 161)

“The bottom line is that real love always shows itself in action.  Nothing happens or changes in this world unless, by faith, we actually do something.” (p. 213-4)

I particularly appreciated Yankosi’s honesty as he reflected on his own struggles in what he experienced during his time on the streets, particularly his realization that he “wanted to live in plenty but remember the sharp lessons of living in want.” (p. 209)

Overall, I’ll give the book 4 out of 5 stars.  Definitely worth the read.

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I received this book free from Multnomah Publishers as part of their Blogger 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 Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”