Spirit Rising: Tapping into the Power of the Holy Spirit by Jim Cymbala

Posted on Updated on

By Jim Cymbala

Looking for a book to read one day, on Christianbook.com, I happened to see Spirit Rising was on special. I thought: “Oh neat, a book on the Holy Spirit. I’ve always wanted to learn more about that.” (since in most Christian circles the talk is usually about Jesus or God, but not on the Holy Spirit.) I ordered it, because I wanted to learn more on a subject I admit I’m not as experienced in as I probably should be. When I received this book, I thought an endorsement from Francis Chan was especially interesting so I began reading Jim Cymbala’s book.

Spirit Rising: Tapping into the Power of the Holy Spirit is a book, which as you probably are able to imagine it is, about the Holy Spirit. Jim opens the book on expressing a thought which I expressed earlier in this review: various Christian circles neither understand nor talk enough about the role of The Holy Spirit and that needs to change. The meat of the focus for Mr. Cymbala’s book is The Holy Spirit, his church in Brooklyn, and testimonies from a few of his own parishioners. Does Jim speak of The Holy Spirit in a heretical way? And how insightful is Mr. Cymbala’s book concerning The Holy Spirit? Spirit Rising does a good job getting started on helping a Christian become more in tune with The Holy Spirit, but it is a light dusting of the surface readers are craving.

I am glad Mr. Cymbala did not promote anything heretical within his book, because the very phrase: “Tapping into the power of The Holy Spirit” is a risky phrase some might misinterpret as a piece of lingo from the heretical Immergant Church movement. I also appreciate the testimonies his parishioners gave for Spirit Rising, because some are very inspiring to read. My favorite testimony to read was concerning the woman immigrant from Latin America; though at times sad the ending is encouraging. Though these things are good, I also felt there could have been more to this book, because there were some unanswered questions… The book seems primarily focused more on trying to convince you into agreeing The Holy Spirit is a neglected teaching and ought to be further pursued through the example of his church in New York, rather THAN actually teaching you things about The Holy Spirit itself… Though I learned some things while reading Mr. Cymbala’s book, I was a little disappointed that time was more spent on talking about Brooklyn Tabernacle than The Holy Spirit itself…

Book Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Battles Men Face: Strategies to Win the War Within By Dr. Gregory Jantz

Posted on

By Dr. Gregory Jantz

Fear is an emotion I’ve dealt with much of my life. The fears and struggles have changed throughout time, but the overall feelings resulted by each fear and struggle has remained with the exact same effect. I am not afraid to admit I am an imperfect person, in fact this is one of the reasons why I love Jesus as I do, but I also have recognized as of late it is something which has held me back in life. Not too long after a conversation with my wife, I ran into Dr. Gregory Jantz’s book: Battles Men Face, which I hoped would give some clarity to what I’ve felt for a long time…

Battles Men Face: Strategies to Win the War Within is a self-help book, targeted for men, which guides the reader with both Christian theology and clinical psychology. Dr. Jantz examines The What, The Why, and The How of various issues Men face. He also guides men with patient testimonies, scriptural passages, and even personal experiences in order for readers to understand and relate to what’s going on within their hearts. Battles Men Face is a book which reveals many thoughts readers might have never thought about as specifically as they might think, and it is also a book which asks the reader some tough yet essential questions…

Though not every man has every problem Dr. Jantz describes, he writes about the inner struggle exactly how it is; at least within my heart. Partially thanks to Dr. Jantz’s book, I realize I have even more growing up to do but what I learned from his book is a good start on my journey. It was eye-opening for me to see a glimpse of why I struggle with the issues I do, and how I should respond to those issues from now on… Based on my personal experience reading Battles Men Face, I’m confident not only was this a very good book for me as a man, but also for any man who wants to be honest enough with themselves. The only complaint I have about Dr. Jantz’ book is every time, I remember, he sources scripture he uses The Message translation; I feel there are better translations out there than the MSG. Otherwise I did not see anything promoted by Dr. Jantz which is contrary to what scripture says. It’s great to see there is a Christian out there who isn’t just trying to help people with their issues, but is also trying to lead them to Jesus Christ; the most important thing a man and woman can do to respond to their inner struggles. I recommend this book highly, and I am encouraged to check out some of his other books as well.

Book Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Loving the Bad Man: A DVD Review

Posted on Updated on

An East Lake Film

Before Christmas arrived, in addition to wanting to watch something with the wife, I also wanted watch a Christian based title. While at Family Video, I saw there were a few Christian titles made available recently, which I can’t help but think is really cool by the way, and one title which I couldn’t resist renting was Loving the Bad Man. I saw an ad for this on Christian Cinema not too long ago, and I also remembered that Stephen Baldwin was on the cover so I was like “hmmmm wonder what’ll be about…?”

Loving the Bad man, concerns two different people. One is a upstanding, Christian girl who tries to be good to everyone and loves the Lord even more. Another is a not-so-wholesome man with a criminal history, that isn’t happy with where he is currently situated in life. The unwholesome character runs into the Christian girl, because she is in need of some help with her flat tire. However in a drunken rage, he rapes her after completing the job…. The dude is thrown into prison while the Christian is struggling with the fact she is now pregnant. Will this prisoner realize the evil he has committed, and how will this Christian girl respond to this very difficult life circumstance?

This is a very controversial film for both Christians and unbelievers a like. I definitely feel this is a film which should be viewed primarily by Christians, simply because there are some ideas within this film which unbelievers are not going to understand or appreciate. However, what is addressed is something which some Christians might also struggle with as well like how Julie responds to her rapist. At times I almost feel the movie is unrealistic, to an extent, in certain scenes where both Julie and her rapist make some diffcult decisions way too quickly; no I am not referring to Julie’s decision to keep the baby. Overall it’s a decent film, it could have been better at times, but it could have been a lot worse too…

Movie Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Homeless for the Holidays: A DVD Review

Posted on

A Bridgestone Film

Believe it or not, I remember watching this on TV once locally. It was a couple of years ago I was watching one of my local television channels when I saw this unusual obscure title on the programming list. I was reminded of Homeless for the Holidays years later while looking around online for Christian Christmas films. When I was reminded of this, I had to ask myself: “why didn’t I like this again?”

Homeless for the Holidays is an independent film about a wealthy marketing director who gets fired from his job, due to a wrongfully accused situation he is pinned upon. Jack Baker with his reputation now ruined cannot find ANY job, until he pushes his way into a minimum wage fast food job. The idea of dressing up as a penguin is embarrassing enough, but things get real tough and discouraging when his power gets shut off and the bank is ready to foreclose on his house if some serious cash doesn’t fall into his hands. Will his family really be homeless for this Holiday? What will Jack and his family learn? And will he ever get his job back with his reputation restored? Homeless for the Holidays had a good premise, especially because this was said to be based off of a true story. I liked the fact the movie was discouraging Christmas to be about material things, and instead was promoting something worth while like family. In fact, one might argue this might be a modern-day parable of The Book of Job.

However, overall I’m not much of a fan of this film. My first complaint is Jack Baker’s personality. I get the idea you’re supposed to not like Jack at the beginning of the film, because he is egotistical and obsessed with his job, but I just didn’t like much of his personality throughout the entire film even when he was being humbled. Of course maybe part of this feeling comes from the fact the acting was terrible. Most of the people in this movie unfortunately sound like they’re either over acting, inauthentic, or just down right cheesy. Speaking of cheesy, certain story elements I strongly felt were quite cheesy like when Jack’s first dawning the Penguin suit and especially the ending itself when things just get resolved perfectly as though the accusation was never even made. Not planning to buy this movie, but if a friend gave me a choice of whether to watch Homeless for the Holidays or a Holiday Fluff film like Adventures of Bailey: Christmas Hero I would much-much rather watch Homeless for the Holidays.

Movie Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

The Resolution by Stephen, Alex Kendrick, and Randy Alcorn.

Posted on Updated on

by Stephen, Alex Kendrick, and Randy Alcorn.

Becoming a real man and practicing Biblical manhood are topics which I’ve blogged about and have read multiple book titles concerning within recent times. If you have been paying attention to my previous work, yes this will be the third book I’ve read which addresses the question “what makes a man, a real man?”. However, I originally started reading this due to my appreciation for the movie Courageous, and me being curious about what they actually had to say about manhood came later. Then I also realized that one of the authors for The Resolution was Randy Alcorn; yup this is also my third Randy Alcorn book too!

The Resolution is as I previewed, a book about being a man in a Biblical sense. This goes over a variety of topics like how to treat a lady, how to treat your children, the importance of teaching your children about Jesus Christ, the great need for you to be a prayer warrior, why it’s important to work hard, the importance of integrity, and other topics. This book goes over various verses and parables which are designed to inspire the reader to pursue Biblical manhood and to flee from what the popular, unsaved, cultural idea is for being a man. But the big question one must ask is… are the ideas which each author present throughout the book correct and let alone are they even possible? The Resolution, prior to actually reading the book itself, sounded pretty cool; keep in mind this was after watching Courageous.

I thought it was so cool that I actually bought the plaque from my local Christian bookstore and had my Pastor along with a Bible Study buddy co-sign it. After completing the book, I am glad I signed the Resolution because this is an extraordinary book which ought to be beneficial for all men; at least the ones who take it seriously. Are there some ideas which in extreme application equate to legalism? Yes, but frankly all theological books have that danger for the reader thanks to our sinful flesh. Even though the other two books on manhood I read earlier were good, there was something about The Resolution which was an even stronger eye opener. The way the authors presented this book was full of scriptural references, deep descriptive language for readers to imagine, ideas and questions which most men can relate to, and the lack of a need to heavily rely upon personal anecdotes or gimmick scenes from the movie. Certain chapters really hit me hard, and actually have inspired me to look at life differently. I am glad to have read this and if you’re a guy (whether young or old) reading this review right now I strongly advise you to read this too. I now take Joshua 24:15 much more seriously now, and for my need to become the man God wants me to be.

Book Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

P.S. Here is a picture of my signed Resolution Plaque which currently hangs in my study:

The Perfect Gift: A DVD Review

Posted on

A Kelly’s Filmworks movie

A while ago, when I still had Cable, I watched The Perfect Gift on JCTV. I remember when I first saw it I really liked it, but I never got around to purchasing it. Years later, when trying to think up some good Christian Christmas movies for my upcoming movie night, this was one of the first thoughts of which I was reminded. However, I didn’t completely remember why I had enjoyed watching Jefferson Moore’s The Perfect Gift so I had to re watch it again in order to properly write this review.

The Perfect Gift contains multiple stories, which all revolve around a drifter named Jes. Maxine is a spoiled rotten girl who is forced to make some new adjustments with Dad and his money no longer being in the picture. Maxine’s mother also has a burden forced upon her, but this mom’s trouble involves planning a politically correct celebration called “The Winter Gala”. Tony is an over burdened, Assistant Pastor who is in the process of setting up a Nativity Scene outside of the church; he also wishes the church was doing better. Blaine is an Atheist who is the head of an activist organization which claims to promote “religious freedom”. Jes is a drifter who peacefully arrives into town who looks a lot like Jesus Christ, is mysteriously a great carpenter, has a gift of wisdom, and somehow directly and indirectly affects the lives of all of these people and the rest of the town itself. What sort of lessons will everyone learn, and what makes Christmas… well Christmas?

After watching this I remembered why I LOVED The Perfect Gift. This movie is wonderful for many reasons, and certainly puts many Holiday Fluff films out there to great shame! One of my favorite reasons for enjoying this movie was the deep theological messages contained within the film without the actors hammering it into your skull. I was especially enamored with the way the townspeople respond to Blaine; it was awesome!!! Jefferson Moore is great as Jes, because he is able to cultivate a variety of moods appropriately, and I also liked how he passionately talked about Mary’s journey to Bethlehem and what he said to Blaine. In fact most of the actors did very well; Christine Fougnie wasn’t the best at first but got better with each scene. The story is very clever and quite realistic, and this was even funny at times. I am amazed I didn’t buy this sooner or tell people about this any sooner. I very strongly recommend this movie for your collection; especially if you like Christmas movies.

Movie Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Christmas Miracle: A DVD Review

Posted on

A Vivendi Entertainment film

Going grocery shopping one day, I saw some of Wal-Mart’s recently released movies along side the checkout aisle. Some were terrible so I just ignored them completely, especially the Holiday Fluff films which companies claim to be representing the “Christmas” season, but I did see one film of interest: Christmas Miracle which inspired me to take a closer look. I read the description and saw the concept was interesting, and I also enjoyed the fact this was made from the same company who released A Mile in His Shoes and both WWJD movies; for those wondering one had John Schneider the other had John Ratzenberger.

Christmas Miracle concerns a group of strangers who get stranded together due to a snowstorm on Christmas Eve; how they all get stuck is suspenseful indeed. One car contains a father whose marriage is falling apart, one contains a widower who used to be a Pastor, another car has a newlywed couple with a bit of an age difference, another has an upper class couple who have been married for years but fight constantly, and the last vehicle is a former EMT worker. Each set of travelers contain their own set of baggage, and must band together within an old abandoned church in order to survive. What will they learn and experience within the old church? And will they have a good Christmas if even having one at all?

Right off the bat I have to say George Canyon, the actor who plays the EMT, is an excellent singer and I love the songs he sings in this movie. I also felt the events and lines written in Christmas Miracle were well done and for the most part were not unrealistic. The acting was very good, and although this was primarily a drama there were a few funny moments too. The theological messages portrayed throughout and at the end of the film I cannot help but feel are necessary for Christians and non Christians alike to hear; especially non-Christian viewers, because then believers can talk to  unbelievers about it. I recommend this as a good Christian, Christmas movie to add to your Christmas movie viewing pleasure and will tell my friends about it.

Movie Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.