Review — “Mondays With My Old Pastor,” by José Luis Navajo


_225_350_Book.649.coverNo one is immune to having a crisis of faith. While we like to think of pastors as being virtual Supermen of holiness, the truth, of course, is that even they struggle at times. “Mondays With My Old Pastor,” by José Luis Navajo, is a picture of that struggle, told largely as a conversation between two pastors, one entering into those challenges and the other having walked through them over his long career. The book centers largely around old stories of varying degrees of familiarity, accompanied by discussions of how they can be applied in a walk with God.

While it’s easy to see how this book would be quite valuable to a church pastor, that includes a rather small minority of people. The lessons of the book, however, are broader in their application. Just as the main character of the book is comforted to know he’s not the first pastor to go through the struggles he’s dealing with, any Christian should take comfort in knowing that even leaders of the church deal with their moments of doubts. And even if the lessons about guiding a flock don’t apply to a particular reader, the books contains truths for anyone, about getting priorities right, about discipleship, about forgiveness. Some of the stories in the book may be familiar, but that doesn’t make them any less meaningful.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program.

• Thomas Nelson Product Page

Review — “The Voice” Bible


A while back I wrote a review about how much I loved the “The Voice” translation of the New Testament, so when Booksneeze offered me a free review copy of the now-completed full “The Voice” Bible, I was incredibly excited.

Since I first got The Voice New Testament, it has become my primary versions of those books. When we’ve been reading the epistles in my Sunday School class, I read out of The Voice. An almost-seamless combination of a word-for-word and a thought-for-thought translation, I have never encountered a Bible that does a better job of making the scriptures readable to a modern audience while still maintaining a feeling of literal authenticity. Making The Voice even more amazing is that it not only does an unparalleled job of making the language contemporary, it does while also doing an unparalleled job of working into the text the historic context in which the scriptures would have originally been read. This Bible is very possibly the closest a lay person can come to what it would have been like to read the canon when it was first closed — in contemporary language and with an understanding of the cultural context.

Since I first started reading The Voice New Testament, I couldn’t wait to read the full version. While The Voice does an excellent job of making the epistles more easily accessible, in my opinion, its greatest strength is in how it presents the narrative portions of scripture. While that means the gospels seem newly fresh, narrative storytelling is a minority of the New Testament. It’s far more prevalent in the Old Testament; and this new complete version of the Bible really demonstrates the advantages of The Voice. As with any new translation, deviations from familiar language may be jarring — “In the beginning, God created everything: the heavens above and the earth below. Here’s what happened:” But that’s not necessarily a bad thing — there’s a great benefit to being stripped of knowing the words and having to start actually hearing them and thinking about them again.

And The Voice is a great place to start doing that.

The Voice at Booksneeze.com

Review: “Constantly Craving” by Marilyn Meberg


More.

The desire for “more” is seemingly an inescapable part of the human experience. It comes in many, many forms — the desire for more “stuff,” the desire for a new relationship (or one better than what we have), the desire for deeper friendships or purpose. Why? Why does this desire seem to be a universal part of being human? Where does it come from? What do we do about it? That’s the focus of Marilyn Meberg’s new book, “Constantly Craving.” Meberg, a professional counselor, examines both how these desires manifest on the surface, and what the deeper needs are that fuel them.

For the lay reader, “Constantly Craving” is an excellent introduction to the relationship between counseling and spirituality. With an accessible, personable tone, Meberg takes a counselor’s approach to examining and explaining a common driver in human behavior, the desire for more and better in life. Then, taking things a step further, she relates these counseling concepts to relationship with God — providing the answers to the questions of why humans are this way, where those needs come from, and what we do about them. Humans are constantly craving more, Meberg explains, because we are looking to meet an innate desire for the ultimate “more” — the perfect fulfillment of relationship with the Almighty Father. Veteran students of the link between human behavior and spirituality may not find much new in Meberg’s book, but for those seeking an understanding of why we are wired the way we are, “Constantly Craving” provides an excellent first step toward that knowledge.

(I received a review copy of Constantly Craving” from Booksneeze.com)

Review — “I Am Second” by Doug Bender & Dave Sterrett


“I Am Second,” by Doug Bender and Dave Sterrett is a pretty book. The page layout is clean and deliberate, the typography a combination of simple serif and san serif fonts that are visually interesting without complexity, the pictures monochromatic against stark plain backgrounds.

The book, visually, is simple and clean. The stories within it are anything but.

“I Am Second” is a story about real people finding God in a real world. Their stories are not pretty. The book is a collection of testimonies that tell stories of hurt, pain and brokenness, of bad choices and bad breaks. The title refers to the point of the stories, of what it means to come to a point of putting God first in one’s life. But even then, the testimonies don’t pretend that decision always makes life pretty and clean; it honestly discusses the struggles people go through.

And that’s the power of “I Am Second” — its unwavering reality. The book makes no case for Christ. There’s no sales pitch. At the end, there’s no altar call, just an explanation of who this Jesus is these people are talking about, and how you could put him first. There’s no pressure, just a collection of love stories with God. Which may be the best case one could make.


I received a free review copy of

Review — “The Voice” New Testament


With a unique approach to translation and presentation, the new “The Voice” New Testament does a great job of making The Book feel like, well, a book. Neither completely a word-for-word or thought-for-thought Bible, “The Voice” builds on a direct translation approach at its core, supplemented with in-line context and a creative approach to dialogue that combine to make for a easily accessible text.

I’ve not had the chance to take “The Voice” to church yet, and I’m interested to see how it works as a functional Bible, but I imagine I’ll stick with a more robust study Bible there. (“The Voice” features little in the way of “extras” outside the main text, with what there is primarily focused on helping the reader to understand how this version came about and how to use it.) But at home? “The Voice” may very well be the best Bible I’ve encountered for just sitting down and reading. I find myself being careful with some of the context — anything extratextual lends itself to opinion — but the structure makes the reading flow easily. The Gospels, in particular, seem the best material for this approach, which brings a modern voice and feel to the narrative. (I received a review copy of “The Voice” through Booksneeze.com)

The Voice On Booksneeze

Review — “The Grace of God” by Andy Stanley


“The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” For some, this can be a difficult truth to understand. At times, God is spoken of almost as if He’s two different beings — a harsh and angry God in the Old Testament, a merciful and loving God in the New. Pastor Andy Stanley explores the Bible as one continuous narrative, telling the story of just one God: a god of Grace.

Stanley tackles a very large subject in this book, and handles it in a way that focuses on making it accessible. “The Grace of God” selects a handful of Biblical high-points from both the Old and New Testaments, and delves into them in a way that shows how, even when it’s not obvious, these stories are ultimately stories of God’s grace, and how they are all part of one ongoing story.

If the book has a shortcoming, it’s that, in making “The Grace of God” easily accessible and understood, it avoids some of the more challenging events of the Old Testament. This doesn’t mean that the book is superficial, however, only selective — even for mature Christians, the book will challenge readers to view what they think they know from a new perspective. (Note: I received a review copy of this book through Booksneeze.)

“The Grace of God” on Booksneeze

Review — “Rumors Of God” by Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson


Chances are very good, you’ve heard about this “God” guy Christians talk about. You probably even have some idea of who you think He is. But how accurate are those impressions? How many of those are misconceptions? Even for a lot of Christians, some of the most important truths of the nature of God are things they’ve only heard something about. In this book, Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson explore the deeper reality of these “Rumors of God.”

The greatest merit of the book comes in making the divine personal. The book is divided into chapters that each explore the truth of a different “rumor” of God, exploring a different aspect of each nature — grace, love, freedom, justice. But in doing so, the authors do far more than reveal who God is — by shedding light on who He is, they explore what it means to be a Christian, and what it means to be a church, and how the two are intricately linked.

For me personally, I could not have asked for a better book at a better time. I read it serendipitously, having received a free review copy through BookSneeze, but it was an incredible blessing. I’ve been through a period that had really challenged my view of who God is, and this book helped me break apart and better rest in my understanding of Him.

Rumors of God on BookSneeze