United States of Jihad

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Peter Bergen has created a highly informational book for those interested in the growing threat of terrorism. Fact-based with lots of details as to the incidents occurring on the homeland. A lot of research seems to have been placed into this book.

FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of United States of Jihad in exchange for my honest review.

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Book Review: Failure: The Back Door To Success

No one likes to fail.

Failure can be painful, and it can leave a person wondering, “Whats next?”

Erwin Lutzer’s book Failure: The Back Door To Success proposes a positive spin, claiming that failure can actually help you get to the success you want.
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Or at least that’s what the cover would have you think. After all, more than 100,00 readers can’t be wrong.

A better title for this book would be Failure: Don’t Let It Happen to You or Failure: How It Can Ruin Your Life. Why so negative? A few examples from the book: a couple decides to become missionaries, and they move to a foreign land. Things don’t work out, and they return home. They’re embarrassed to explain why, so they tell their friends a different story to cover up the “failure” that they are no longer missionaries. Or, a Christian woman marries a non-believer, and she has to work like crazy to make her marriage work. She resigns herself to wondering what might have been – could she have been a missionary had she not gotten pregnant before being forced to marry this guy she’s now stuck with? (What is it with this author and missionaries?) This woman can’t stand her husband, but she has to love him.

If you’re expecting a Christian version of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, this book isn’t it. I disagree with what seems to be the author’s belief that most human failure results from sin. Yes, much of it does, but just because a career objective does not work out as hoped for, does not mean that it HAD to be the result of sin. Perhaps God had something better in mind, or circumstances changed…. we are human, and our knowledge is finite.

Another major lacking point of this book is how it focuses on failure – it’s very negative – and it lacks the knowledge of how to get from the failure to success.  Information on “the back door to success” is what it’s missing. That positive aspect is lacking. This book focuses on sin so much that it overspiritualizes –  it overlooks the fact that sometimes failure happens even when people are following God with all their hearts.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Courage for the Unknown Season

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What’s next? How can I get through the changing seasons of life? Life no doubt often holds changes in store that we don’t like, can’t anticipate, or have trouble navigating.

Courage for the Unknown Season by Jan Silvious promises to provide confidence and hope for those who want to arm themselves through the choppy waters of life changes. Unlike Miriam Neff’s book Where Do I Go From Here?, there’s something about Courage for the Unknown Season that makes it a book that should be more targeted towards those in the latter part of their lives. It’s rare that I would say this about any book, but Silvious’ book just doesn’t reach well to people at all life stages. Even more, when I started reading it, I was staring a major life challenge in the eye. The book didn’t make me feel better, and it didn’t offer me any hope. When major life challenges happen, optimism, for some of us, isn’t the best route – we need to grieve first and then move on.

Some people, no doubt, are going to majorly benefit from this book. I just was not one of them.

FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

Master Your Money by Ron Blue Book Review

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Do you feel like your money is in charge of you, instead of you being in charge of your money? Do you ever wish that you knew how you could master your money?

Entrepreneur and accountant Ron Blue has a few ideas in his new book Master Your Money. This is a re-vamped version of a previous edition published in the late 80s. This time, he’s made some updates, adding personal reflections to the end of each chapter. He’s also added a special writing partner, his son Michael Blue, to add commentary at the end of each chapter.

Master Your Money offers a decidedly  Christian perspective with a heavy emphasis on the spiritual aspect of money management. Probably the biggest takeaway from this book is the idea of stewardship: that God “owns it all” and that people don’t truly own their money or possessions, but are simply caretakers of the things they have. The second takeaway is the huge emphasis placed on giving. Blue talks about giving and goes beyond emphasizing tithing as important, but states that is is the first purpose money should be used for in a budget  (even before taxes, and states that tithing should be done from gross instead of net income). He discusses estate planning for charity and making faith pledges beyond what you think you can give (to help your city, the world, orphans, the poor).

There are some changes that could have been made to this book to make it stronger. There are two big issues that people in this country are suffering from financially that aren’t addressed at all in this book, which could have been updated: student loan debt and health care costs. Blue talks about types of debt, but leaves student loan debt completely out of the picture, which is concerning given that student loan debt cannot be discharged in a bankruptcy. This is a critical issue given that so many students have defaulted on their student loans and are overextended. Another issue that needs further addressing is rising health care costs. The sample budget given for health care costs seems low given that families are experiencing increased costs in the areas of premiums, drug costs, etc. This is not a political issue but a financial one, and to not address it doesn’t give an accurate picture of what everyday families are up against in their personal finances.

Another strange part about this book is in the sample budget, there’s a line item for “margin” – a 2 percent category for a family to help them increase their cash flow. Yet, there is no line item on the sample budget for saving money for the future. When savings is not automated or made intentional in some way, it doesn’t happen. I don’t know if this “margin” category is the author’s way of saying “savings”, but it seems odd that a financial expert wouldn’t urge people to be intentional about creating an emergency fund of some kind, when so many people probably do not have one. Furthermore, I’m not sure why the author wouldn’t encourage people to save more than two percent of their budget when he is urging them to give 10 percent to others. The Biblical mandate is to provide for your own household or you are worse than an unbeliever… how can a wise person prepare for the hard times that will inevitably come in the future without making plans?

FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of Master Your Money from the publisher, Moody Publishers, in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

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Why did Jesus perform miracles?

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Why did Jesus perform miracles?

If your answer includes the idea that performing miracles was Jesus’ way of proving his identity, theologian Brian Onken would challenge you. The idea that Jesus performed miracles to prove his divinity – a concept that Onken refers to as Jesus “pulling His God Card” – is discussed in Onken’s new book More Than His God Card What Jesus Wants You to Know About Him as Revealed In His Miracles. Each chapter of More Than His God Card covers a different miracle that Jesus performed, and Onken uses fresh style to introduce each chapter.

The second Appendix at the back of the book, “Learning to Read Gospel Narratives”, should be read before anything else. If there’s one point that Onken wants to get across, it is that the Bible should be read with an open mind while putting previous ideas aside.

FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of More Than His God Card from the publisher, Ambassador International, for free in exchange for my honest review.

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