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Book Reviews

Introduction

Following are reviews of books that I have read that relate in some way to living the Christian life. My views do not necessarily reflect those of the United Methodist Church or of other members of Ebenezer UMC, but I do try to look at everything through a Christian world view that relies heavily upon the written word of God--The Holy Bible. There are also some general interest books included in the reviews and recommendations.

---Cindy Sears

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The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips by Stephen Baldwin and Mark Tabb, c2008

This well-written Christian novel may disturb you as much as it did me. Reading the story blew away some of my preconceived notions of human and Christian behavior. The story centers on police officer, Andy Meyers, who has been involved in a torrid affair with a woman that leads to his involvement with her young son, too. Then one night he is called to an apartment complex in the seedier part of town where he finds the boy lying in a pool of his own blood. The boy’s father, who did not call the police, is in the apartment and acting very calm about the death of his son. Meyers becomes ever more suspicious as the tearless father talks about his son being with the Lord now and in a better place. As Andy deals with his own emotional turmoil, he becomes heavily involved in the investigation and determined to see justice done for the boy. The father is an ex-con who claims to have had a jailhouse conversion to Christianity. Meyers is an unbeliever who deserted his wife as soon as he found out she was pregnant because he did not want children. How far will Meyers go to insure the father’s conviction for murder? How much of his own guilt is wrapped up in his desire for justice for a dead child? Is the father truly saved or just a pretender? The answers may surprise you.

Warning: adult themes and offensive language is used sparingly and within context to tell this story.  

Get Out of That Pit; Straight Talk about God’s Deliverance by Beth Moore.

Based on Psalm 40:1-3, Beth Moore tells us how to get out of our pits of despair, whether we walked into them ourselves or were pushed in by someone else. The love of God and His ever-present care can help us through all our dark moments. Read this book if you are in a pit now or just in case you fall into one in the future. As Beth says, Satan is working on making a pit for you even now, so be prepared and let God throw Satan and his demons in the pit instead!

Got the Life: My Journey of Addiction, Faith, Recovery, and Korn By Fieldy with Laura Morton, c2009.

“Sometimes, I’d get physically violent, too—especially after I’d been drinking. I was so volatile and unpredictable. No one knew when my tirades would occur, but they were all certain they would come.”

“I felt half dead. I asked God to take my addiction away from me and never bring it back again. I was really specific when I prayed…I haven’t had a single drop of alcohol and have remained completely drug free since 2005. I could never have done it without God’s help.”

Reggie Arvizu, better known as Fieldy, grew up in a quintessential rock and roll family. His father and mother both drank heavily and fought regularly, often violently. When Fieldy became a rock musician, eventually becoming one of the founding members of the highly successful nu metal rock band, Korn, he lived the way he had seen his parents and other musicians live. Alcohol, illicit drugs, and sex with any wiling woman became the norm. And even though he could see his life and the lives of his fellow band members spinning out of control, he suppressed his feelings of guilt and carried on. As he says in his book, “I’ll admit that sin is fun. I loved to sin, but I realized there was no way I could handle the consequences I continually had to pay for my sin. It was obvious that I had to replace it with something better. I’ve said it before; if living a life of sin were better, I’d still be doing it. I no longer wanted to carry the weight of my guilt and shame on my shoulders. The Bible showed me there is a way out.”

Fieldy gives the reader an honest look into the ‘normal’ rock and roll band lifestyle, showing how dark and destructive it was to himself and everyone around him. When his father became a Christian, Fieldy refused to listen to any religious junk, so his father simply loved him without judging him. Seeing the peace his father now had created a yearning in Fieldy’s heart for the same peace. At his father’s death, his stepmother asked him to pray to Jesus and ask the Lord to come into his heart—which he did, not really knowing what he was doing. And God took it from there.

An excellent read, even if you don’t know anything about the band. Fieldy shows us that Jesus can and does transform the lives of even the hardest sinner—even one covered in multiple tattoos (don’t get any ideas, Jimmy).  

 Living on the Ragged Edge; Coming to Terms with Reality by Charles R. Swindoll

This is an insightful exposition of Ecclesiastes, a book almost not included in the Bible because of its strongly cynical viewpoint. Rev. Swindoll does a good job of showing how the Preacher or King Solomon tried all the pathways to earthly happiness man has indulged in since time began. There really isn’t anything new under the sun. Men continue to use the same strategies to live their lives without God—and they continue to fail. Living “under the sun” instead of living in Christ and for God always has and always will fail to satisfy our basic needs or desires. “If a man who had everything, investigated everything visible, . . . then the one thing needed must be invisible.”  “Vanites of vanities, all is vanity.”

Without God, we cannot fill the emptiness inside of us; and the distractions that we use to avoid the reality of that emptiness can only lead to sorrow, pain and death. This is a good book for a personal or class study on Ecclesiastes with solid guidelines for living as good a life as possible on this sin-filled world—under God.

A New Earth, An Old Deception; Awakening to the Dangers of Eckhart Tolle’s #1 Bestseller by Richard Abanes, c2008.

Anyone who is an Oprah Winfrey fan or keeps their ears to the ground knows about the latest attack on the truth through Eckart Tolle’s writings and teaching. The online class sponsored by Oprah has reached 500,000 people in 139 countries. In this book, Mr. Abanes goes through Tolle’s basic teachings or beliefs and shows how they contradict the Bible and reality. Tolle twists the meaning of scripture to his own purposes—especially the words of Christ—and Abanes shows you how he does it. Many Christians are being pulled into this new guise for the old “New Age” lies that have been around for decades (actually centuries).  Tolle claims new insight and his arrogance knows no bounds. When asked how he knows that what he believes is true, Tolle responded, “The certainty [of it] is complete.” He added, “[E]ven if I met the Buddha and the Buddha said you are wrong, I would say, ‘Oh, isn’t that interesting, even the Buddha can be wrong.’” (p. 37).

Do not be deceived. Read and study your Bible, and read this book by Abanes, so that you will know “how to minister to those drawn into yet another eastern mystical attempt to escape from the self and the world” (H. Wayne House).

Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain by Pete Egoscue with Roger Gittines, c1998.

My participation in the Tuesday morning prayer group has made me aware of many cases of chronic pain in our community and among the members of our church. I have had bouts with carpal tunnel syndrome or tendinitis, back and neck pain, and leg, ankle and foot pain. Several years ago, I stumbled upon Pete Egoscue’s book, and I thank God every day that I did.

Egoscue makes an excellent case that the major cause of chronic pain is “incorrect posture” or moving in ways that do not take advantage of our bodies’ design for motion. Our bodies are engineered to be able to withstand a great deal of physical stress—if we use the correct muscles and bones in the correct way.

If you could find a way to relieve most or all of your chronic pain without drugs or surgery, wouldn’t you try it? Take a look around you. Notice how people stand, sit, and walk. Many people tend to slump at the computer, slouch when they walk, walk with toes turned outward or inward instead of straight ahead, or walk and stand sway-backed instead of erect.

When I was working at the Hickory Public Library, I developed a bad case of numbness in my right hand from doing repetitive tasks on the computer. I had to learn to “mouse” with the left hand during my recuperation. Later on, the problem returned, along with knee, back and neck pain. I went to see a doctor and was sent to a sleep clinic, and was given some medicine that was supposed to help me sleep better. The doctor arranged for a test on my hands to determine if I needed surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome. While taking the medication and waiting on the test date to arrive, I began to experience stomach pain and the numbness in my hands became worse. At the same time, I picked up Egoscue’s book and began to do the exercises he recommended for the hand numbness and other pain. I stopped taking the pills, continued the exercises, and by the time of the testing on my hands, the numbness had completely disappeared. The doctor who did the test said he wished his hands were in as good a shape as mine were. I told him about the exercises I was doing, but he did not seem to be interested in hearing about them.

When I do the maintenance exercises regularly, I experience only temporary muscle soreness when I do new things or move more than usual. Human that I am, I have trouble doing them all the time. Yet, whenever I begin to experience chronic pain and begin the exercises again—the pain goes away. I also try to remind myself constantly to stand and sit straight (not rigid, but correctly), walk with my feet pointed straight ahead, and pull in my stomach to avoid a sway-back posture.

I highly recommend this book. I continue to use the exercises as needed. Most of the exercises can be done using common household items. The exercises are fairly easy, though there are one or two that are difficult when you first begin them. I have found one exercise that I cannot do at all, and other people may find more that are too stressful because of past injuries or surgeries. Still, these exercises will help you to use God’s perfectly designed body the way it was meant to be used, and help you avoid drugs and surgeries in many instances—if you do the exercises regularly! Just reading the book will not help. 

The Pillars of Christian Character; the Essential Attitudes of a Living Faith by John F. MacArthur

From faith to obedience to perseverance and gratitude, MacArthur  provides scripture and details of the basic characteristics of a Christian and how we can develop them as we study God’s word and live our lives in this world for Christ, our Lord.

The Promise; How God Works All Things Together for Good by Robert J. Morgan, c2008.

Mr. Morgan does an excellent job of examining the promise given to all Christians in Romans 8:28. All things do work together for believers, but not necessarily in the way that we would prefer. And they do not work together for good to the non-believer. As Morgan says, “So God’s promises are not distributed wholesale to every inhabitant on earth; they are the exclusive domain of those who love Him. It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that God occasionally sticks a divine thermometer into our mouths to measure the temperature of our love for Him…(2 Corinthians 8:8)” –p. 73.

That promise also says that things work according to God’s purpose, not mine or yours. “God also has a sense of purpose…The great promise of Romans 8:28 is connected with that very thing. Those who love God find themselves agreeing with and attaching themselves to His purpose” – p. 84. “…God intends to use all things in life as tools of the Holy Spirit to reproduce the image of Christ in us. It’s not that we are trying to be like Christ; it’s that the Holy Spirit replicates the personality of Christ within us as we grow older and deeper in Christ” – p. 88.

You will find this exposition of Romans 8:28 and the following verses insightful and helpful.

Saving Freedom: We Can Stop America’s Slide into Socialism by Jim Demint, U. S. Senator.

If you value liberty and love your country—the United States of America—read this book. But don’t just read it. Take it to heart and act. Demint shows how and why the U. S. has slid towards a socialistic government though established by our founders and the Constitution as a republic. Then he presents ways to take back our country and our freedom, including solid and logical ways to provide health insurance to everyone without increasing the national debt or taking away each American’s right to choose. This book includes a copy of the Constitution, so that you can see for yourself how far we’ve fallen away from a constitutionally legitimate government.

Demint not only calls for change in our government and how it’s run. He also laments the demise of personal responsibility built on faith and freedom. Faith in God, the ultimate lawgiver, translates into hard work, strong families, and a willingness to accept personal responsibility for our choices. That’s what true liberty and economic survival are all about. One aspect of freedom is the freedom to fail. Any time we accept a handout from the government, we give up some of our freedom to act.

As Demint says, “Real freedom of choice means individuals accept the risks, consequences, and rewards of making their own decisions…When government tries to remove the risks, rewards, and consequences of decision making, it destroys freedom.” (p. 74).

We have spent decades now training people to depend upon the government instead of on their own hard work and creativity. Attempting to remove God from the schools and the public forum has helped to create generations of people who have no moral foundation, no rudder to guide them; so they make self- and society-harming choices and then expect the government to step in and “make it all better.” It’s time we turned back to God and His laws and to adherence to the Constitution, which will take us back to a smaller, more stable government and greater prosperity for everyone, not just a fortunate few.

 When Godly People Do Ungodly Things; Arming Yourself in the Age of Seduction by Beth Moore, c2002.

Beth Moore writes to warn and toss a lifeline to those who have fallen for the Devil’s deceptions. There are signs that Christ’s Second Coming is near; and, Satan, knowing his time is short, has stepped up his campaign to deceive people. One way he keeps people from God’s love and forgiveness is by ruining the witness of Christ’s disciples. Moore tells us how Satan works his way into Christians’ lives, leading them astray. She also tells how to seduce-proof our lives. Then she lovingly and carefully reaches out to those people who have fallen, showing them that forgiveness in Christ is always available to his people—we simply have to ask for it and turn from our sin. She also calls on the church to be prepared to help bring people back into the fold once they have repented.

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” (1 Thess. 5:23-24)

Let God work His will in you and ask for help from your pastor or fellow believers if you need help.

 

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