Christian book review

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

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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

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

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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.

The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn

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By Jonathan Cahn

While surfing the web, I hear of movies and books every once in a while. On WorldNetDaily’s website in particular I heard about this “must read” which happened to also be a New York Times best-selling book. I like reading books when I have the time, and because of the many great things I had heard about the book I couldn’t resist finding a copy of The Harbinger. In particular, what made me especially curious about this book by Jonathan Cahn were the numerous amount of people who said “Even though the story is fiction, what is described in the book is true and could actually happen in the future…”

The Harbinger is a fictional story about three characters: Nouriel, Ana, and “The Prophet”. Nouriel is telling Ana, a publicist, about his encounters with a man who claims to be a Prophet from God. This Prophet tells Nouriel throughout their encounters, the United States of America has similarities to ancient Israel, and has been susceptible to God’s warning and will be judged less it repents of its ways. Isaiah 9:10 is cited often throughout this story, but what is also cited are things said and done within recent years which have great similarities to things said and done by ancient Israel back during the Prophet Isaiah’s lifetime… I found the similarities surprisingly shocking, and this book certainly does give the reader legitimate reasons to be cautious about the fate of our world and our own lives; it’s important we all repent especially our nations’ leaders.

However, there are two things which Jonathan Cahn forgot to consider when writing this story: 1) The Book of Revelation and 2) The Alternative Media’s Message. I don’t want to get too complicated in this review, I’ll save some of those thoughts for my YouTube Channel later, but what Jonathan Cahn preaches in his book is iffy in that while everything he says is accurate, the application for it isn’t necessarily completely accurate. When it comes to the type of theology applied, it’s definitely not worth ignoring but it’s also not necessarily going to be in the exact image as it’s being perceived. It’s like you happen to see through a neighbor’s window a gun hanging on the wall and someone nearby tells you “that man who lives there is dangerous”. Yes the person has a gun, but that doesn’t mean that any person who has a gun is a bad person. Jonathan Cahn does provide information and sources for his story which is great, but you have to be very careful with how you interpret everything based on the info; what Jesus said in Matthew 24 is especially worth considering. All in all this is a good book with a decent storyline, though I wouldn’t call it “suspense” like the book considers itself since it’s not really the type of book which will keep you on the edge of your seat…

Book Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

In the Footsteps of Jesus by Bruce Marchiano

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by Bruce Marchiano

I liked watching Matthew, the film presentation of The Gospel of Matthew. One reason why I enjoyed that film is, because it made me ponder about how Jesus Christ himself was during this time in our world’s history. I felt a movie out to portray Jesus Christ with as much accuracy as possible was an artistic and admirable project. Then I heard Bruce Marchiano, the actor who played Jesus Christ, had written a book based on personal thoughts and experiences he had during the filming of Matthew. When I heard about In the Footsteps of Jesus I couldn’t resist opening its cover, because I wanted to know just what it took for Bruce to play Jesus Christ and I was also hopefully fascinated on hearing some Biblical inspiration.

In the Footsteps of Jesus looks at Bruce Marchiano’s real life experiences during the filming of the movie Matthew. He shares his thoughts and feelings of what it was like to prepare for and perform the role of Jesus Christ, and he also reveals a bit of his Christian testimony. Mr. Marchiano paints a picture of what it was like working in Morocco, the climate of being an actor, and reveals several interesting events which took place before/during/after the filming of this epic movie.

Now there were certainly some moments Bruce shared which I found funny like his first visit to a Hammam and the accidental directorial decision to film a scene within a pit local villagers used as a toilet lol. There were also times when I felt like crying in instances such as a Moroccan Family’s generous hospitality, the director’s kindness for someone who accidentally ruins the movie’s film, and simply being touched by Bruce’s poetic descriptions. If I could simplify the experience real short and sweet, I’d say watching it was like appreciating a work of art. I watched Matthew and thought “this is pretty good” not thinking about it as deeply as I should, but then once I read more about Jesus as well as Bruce’s preparation/technique/inspiration I appreciated both this book and the movie a lot more! Mr. Marchiano certainly put a lot of effort into playing Jesus Christ and I had a few “You know I never thought of it that way before, but you’re right!” moments as well as a few “wow!” moments too. I highly recommend this book as it gave me a similar feeling of when I read Dr. John MacArthur’s The Jesus You Can’t Ignore, in that I was able to imagine what was written and it was breathtaking. Now that I’ve read this, I am especially excited to see Bruce’s new Jesus movie: Jesus no Greater Love; based on the gospel of John.

Book Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days At The Links of Utopia by David L Cook

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by David L Cook

Golf is a game I’m not very good at nor do I like watching it on TV necessarily, but I do like playing it anyhow on occasion with my Dad; my late grandfather loved golf and was good at it. I was inspired to read this book, because of a friend on Twitter as well as the new Seven Days in Utopia movie coming to theaters September 2nd, 2011. (whenever it comes out on DVD I shall review that as well.) The movie looked good in the trailer so I wanted to read the book first and see how this would be.

Golf’s Sacred Journey is a story, written by David L. Cook, which concerns a young PGA golfer who is getting frustrated by a spell of poor gameplay. To unwind, he drives around and finds a town called Utopia, Texas. In that small town he meets an older, experienced golfer named Johnny. Johnny knows there is potential in this young golfer and offers to teach him; some of what is taught is more than just simple swinging techniques.

I like the fact this is easy to read due to the amount of pages and the vocabulary used, because I feel most people within their tweens or older should be able to read this book without getting too confused. Though I’d have to reread this and test out some of the stuff Johnny talks about, I can tell by the descriptive language that Mr. Cook has a good share of golfing experience under his belt. I don’t know why, but in some ways this story reminded me of a mixture between Cars and The Karate Kid a little bit, only this story is about golf and has a hint of Christian theology attached to it. Some readers might feel chapter 6 is offensive due to Johnny and his student participating in a gambling game; I wasn’t offended for those curious. In the grand scheme of things, I thought this was a pretty good book. As I first admitted, I’m not the best golfer out there and probably don’t have as much passion for the game as others out there, but I liked it and figure those who like to play golf might like to read this story as well; hope the movie is as good as the book.

Book Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

The Gospel for Real Life by Dr. Jerry Bridges

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by Dr. Jerry Bridges

Technically this is the third book I’ve read from Dr. Jerry Bridges. Based on the two previous books I read, I feel he is a very good author who is underappreciated within Christian circles. I really enjoyed reading The Discipline of Grace, especially and with the theme of that book I wondered what differences this book would have from his other books? Well after reading this book I have to say there are certainly some similarities of the two, but there are a few extra features. If you don’t know what I mean, I guess the best way to describe Dr. Bridges’ writing style is that with each book he tries to tie in previous books while introducing something new at the same time.

Like The Discipline of Grace, Dr. Bridges’ The Gospel For Real Life has the gospel centered as a chunk of its theme, only this seemed to be a book less complicated in theological discussion as well as having the basic gospel message as being the primary theme for this rather than being complimentary like in The Discipline of Grace. Now this book specifically goes over most of what an outsider of the faith or someone who is new to Christianity, should or ought to know. I feel this is a very good book which at times has a bit of humor, but is quite theologically educational and isn’t too long of a read. There is also a study guide included in this edition and I think this would be helpful for those who like to have Bible Study discussions; especially if you decide to lend this to an outsider of the faith. I highly recommend this book to anyone including someone who is not a Christian.

Book Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Disclaimer: Ben Umnus was given a free copy of this book by NavPress Publishers, but he was neither paid for his review nor was he commanded by NavPress Publishers to write a positive review. This review is the personal, written opinion of Ben Umnus.  This disclaimer is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn

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by Randy Alcorn

I decided to read The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn, partially because of his Goodness of God book I read back in March. Of course my other reason for reading The Treasure Principle is due to the subject concerning money. I wanted to read his perspective on money, considering it is a subject which effects everyone. I liked some of what he presented, but I wasn’t pleased to read a certain idea in particular…

The Treasure Principle is a short book about money, joy, and giving; he is also a Christian Hedonist. The idea of promoting generous giving sounds good right? I mean he does condemn the whole Health and Wealth Gospel. I want to like what he says, because I don’t want to be focused negatively on my problems and he certainly does present some very good ideas like his six keys. However I have an issue with how he responds to someone who says “I can’t afford to give more financially.”

He says on page 66 and I quote: “When people tell me they can’t afford to tithe, I ask them ‘If your income was reduced by 10 percent would you die?’ They say ‘no.’ And I say, ‘ then you’ve admitted that you can afford to tithe. It’s just that you don’t want to…” I find that to be a very unfair statement. He is not talking to a Christian like me who has many bills to pay (sometimes paying them late), lives from paycheck to paycheck, and doesn’t make much money per year. He is talking to the Christian who is able to pay their bills on time always, who is mid-middle class or higher, and is doing pretty well financially where they have plenty of extra money leftover for savings and spending. In the latter group I understand those people should be giving because as he said we take some of what we have for granted, however for my group it’s unfair because it forces a person into a legalistic standard and scriptural conflict; after all we are not to be thieves and pay for our bills.

The Bible says “The Lord loves a cheerful giver” and the idea of trying to guilt trip someone into tithing is not good. Not to mention, Jesus Christ does not commend the old widow for what percentage she gave, but the fact she had the warmth to give as generously as she did in the first place, meaning she was giving more of her HEART. A person can give generously without it having anything to do with money. For an example I can give my time in serving the local church as well as giving a homeless person supplies to help them physically and spiritually (you know like some food, blankets, jacket, clean clothes, and a Bible, etc.) Again I liked some of what he had to say and we can’t be afraid to give to people, but how we should be giving shouldn’t be focused simply on the $$$. This subject of money, giving, and joy also should have been talked about for much longer than 95 pages.

Book Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

Disclaimer: Ben Umnus was given a free copy of this book by Waterbrook Multnomah Press, but he was neither paid for his review nor was he commanded by Waterbrook Multnomah Press to write a positive review. This review is the personal, written opinion of Ben Umnus.  This disclaimer is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”