Book Review: Seal of God by Chad Williams


Seal of God chronicles the life of Chad Williams, a Navy Seal who served from 2004-2010 and is now in full-time ministry.  The book is basically Williams’ testimony of how God changed his life.

This was an easy, enjoyable read – a great summer book (I read it in about 6 hours over two days).  The first 2/3’s of the book focus on Williams’ life before Christ got ahold of him, with some extraordinary stories of his life before Christ.  I suppose that was my only criticism of the book: while his transformation was dramatic and incredible, I found myself wondering why I had to read so much to finally find evidence of what God had done in his life.  That’s really the only reason I’m not reviewing this book more highly.  Williams said throughout the book that he was very self-centered and proud of his own accomplishments, and that was clearly echoed in the first 180 pages of the book.  There was a dramatic change after the story of his conversation, but I was just hoping to see that sooner rather than later.

I will report that once the transformation happened in the book it was incredibly dramatic and inspirational.  Perhaps one of the most moving parts to read was when he told the story of the abuse he underwent by others after becoming a Christian – it’s hard to believe behavior like what he chronicled still exists in our country, but I know it does.  It’s also a confirmation that Jesus’ words are true that we will be persecuted for our faith.

In conclusion, I’ll give this book 3/5 stars.  If you’re looking for an inspirational, quick read this summer then check out Seal of God, but don’t be surprised if at times you walk away from it focused more on the author of the book than the Author of Changed Lives.

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

Book Review: Muscular Faith by Ben Patterson


Have you ever dreaded a book?  I mean, really dreaded opening a book?  I wish I could say that wasn’t the case with Muscular Faith, but for me it was.  For those who follow my blog you’ve noticed I haven’t posted a book review in quite some time – and, unfortunately, that’s for a good (or not so good) reason: the current book I’ve been reading for review for the past three months has been a bear to pickup and read.

So I finally decided I’m not going to finish reading it.  I actually made it about 40% of the way through the book – further than I would go on a book I didn’t like (normally I give it between 10-20%), but since I was reading this to review I felt some moral obligation to finish it.  But my moral obligation ended when I found I wasn’t reading anything because I felt so tied down to reading this book (to review it), but then I didn’t want to read it so I just avoided it.  That’s not fair to me or the rest of my library – so I stopped.

It’s not that Muscular Faith was bad in terms of it’s theology or content – it was just a bear to read.  Ben Patterson had some great things to say in the book – I even underlined a few spots here and there – but for whatever reason I just couldn’t deal with his style.  In short, I always felt like I was being yelled at by a football coach instead of being instructed, guided, mentored, or counseled by an advisor.  I’m going to give this book 1/5 stars, but to be fair let’s remember I didn’t read the entire thing.

For the record, I was given a free copy of the book by the publisher for an honest (and not necessarily favorable) review.

Book Review: Craving Grace by Lisa Velthouse


Craving Grace chronicles the real-life journey of one woman as she struggles with balancing the scriptural expectations for holy living with the promise of God’s grace and forgiveness.  Author Lisa Velthouse composes this memoir to share her story of  “faith, failure, and [her] search for sweetness.”  While I never even heard of the book, some of you may recognize her name as the author of Saving My First Kiss – a book she wrote vowing that she would never kiss a man until she got engaged.  As Velthouse travels through her life she comes to the realization that it is her belief in God and how he loves her (or doesn’t love her) that impacts everything she is and does.  Velthouse writes about 1/3 of the way into the book:

“[T]here have been – there are still – times when I don’t feel convinced he can be trusted for another tuft [of grass – referring to the idea that the Lord is our shepherd] or for what seems like the right one….I had all but stopped asking God for things, even small things that had a chance of being important to me.  I assumed he would rather teach me another hard lesson than disk me up some asked-for happiness or relief.  I had become afraid to pray my most weighty and meaningful requests, out of ear that God might deny them instantly, for sport.

“My only fallback plan was to…keep trying to be extra good.  I hoped my obedience and good behavior would compel God to send me some of the favor I had been asking for.  The problem with this fallback plan, however, was that it was held together by two assumptions: I’m deserving and God isn’t loving.”

While at times her struggles to me seemed simplistic and her expectations unrealistic, I also recognized myself while reading the book that it was my own sense of self-righteousness that was causing me to judge her attempts at holiness as being that way.  In all honesty, reading the book reminded me that holiness is much than what we don’t do but also what we do do.  Later in the book Velthouse identifies her own struggles and failures with that of Peter in the Gospels, and this one struck a chord with me:

“Here [is Peter], a man who only days earlier had with confidence and maybe cockiness put stock in his own ability to follow Jesus boldly.  “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never.”  There were perhaps, valid reasons for Peter to believe he could pull that off – he had already given up his career and left his family to follow Christ around the countryside for who knows how long – probably years.  He had once gone out on a limb and had, in fact of all the other disciples, dared to say that Jesus was the Son of God.  On top of that, he had attempted to walk on water and for a short time had even managed it.  His discipleship to that point had demonstrated gall and a fierce tenacity, no doubt.  Even so, in a few gray moments before dawn, he found he was still fundamentally lacking and wrong…Peter couldn’t keep even one denial down his throat.

“I tend to look at myself and think, Good too.  Good at following God more than most other folks.  Good at holding my tongue for the most part.  Good at being an example, especially when there’s a stage to stand on…Good at not needing forgiveness most days.  Good at making up for my flaws and foibles….It is a story cut from the same stone as Peter’s “I will never,” and somewhere there is a rooster about to crow…

“Par of the message of Christ’s death, God’s sacrificing his own Son for humanity, is that even at our best and brightest, at our most spot-on and well-intentioned, we are incapable of being the people we would need to be in order to get to God.  So I am more than just a person who sins; I am a sinful person.  On my own I am fundamentally, unchangeably full of sin, no matter how good I try to get.  My only hope for a future apart fro my sin is to accept the one gift I can never deserve: Christ’s sacrifice.”

As with most people I know (including me) who struggle with this big concept of living by the grace of God, Velthouse found that once she discovered grace she began to abuse it, in a sense.  But then she realized, correctly, that our response to God’s grace is not sinning more but trusting more.  She writes of her rebellious stage, “The phase didn’t last long…Over time I discovered that reveling in God’s grace didn’t necessarily require emphasizing how crude and irresponsible I could be.  When the dust settled, I returned to careful behavior, to pursuing obedience as best as I could.”

Overall this book was a pleasant read, though my over-all disappointment with the book is that it spent more space talking about life before her discovery of living in God’s grace and not much about what that discovery meant as she lived it out day-to-day.  If you’re looking to read the journey one of your sisters in Christ makes as she discovers – truly discovers – God’s grace, this book is worth your time.  Don’t look to it for any radical insights or revelations – but be careful as you read it, because you may find it is like looking into a mirror and seeing yourself.  I’ll give it 3.5 stars.

I received this book free from Tyndale 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.”

Book Review: Why Great Men Fall by Wayde Goodall


Why Great Men Fall contains 15 chapters highlighting different struggles common to most men.  Issues such as Compartmentalization, Sex, Integrity, Stress, Money, or Ethics.  While I was excited to receive the book and jumped right in to reading it I have to admit I was deeply disappointed in it’s content.  For starters, it didn’t contain anything new and I found the writing less interesting to follow than many other men’s books I have read in the past.  There are other authors I would point men to (Patrick Morley and John Eldredge come to mind off the top of my head) before giving them this book.  It’s not that the book didn’t contain good content, because it does, but the content has been written before by other authors, authors whom I prefer to read (given the choice).

On top of that, the physical structure of the book was distracting.  I know we shouldn’t “judge a book by its cover”, and I’m not doing that.  What I’m talking about are small margins and what feels like a larger page than most books – it gave the impression that stuff was crammed in to save money, which made me ask the question, “Is it really that important to read after all?”

Again, content was fine, just not overly insightful.  I’ll give it 1.5 out of 5 stars.

I received this book free from New Leaf 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.”