Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Night With A Perfect Stranger : A Review

Night With A Perfect Stranger


David Gregory

A Review

My first impression of Night With A Perfect Stranger was less than spectacular. It did not live up to the author’s previous two books, Dinner With A Perfect Stranger and Day With A Perfect Stranger. In the first two books, Nick Cominsky and his wife, Maggie, meet Jesus. They each spend time with him and take the first steps in faith as they seek to follow the Savior.

Over time, Maggie’s faith grew while Nick’s faith seemed to get lost on the way to living his life. As he travels home, Nick once again meets Jesus and has another significant conversation with Him. A conversation, as the subtitle suggests, changes everything.

Though the book did not grab my interest at first, about three fifths of the way through, I found myself in tears. The author uses an illustration of God’s love that I had never heard before. God’s love is compared to that of a father of an premature baby. That baby has no way to ask for the father’s love, that baby has no way to acknowledge that love. Yet the father loves the baby none-the-less. We are that premature baby - not yet fully developed. But God loves us none-the-less. We will grow, we will get stronger - but we are not there yet. And, as that father loves his premature child, God loves us.

Night With A Perfect Stranger is really the story of two conversations. The first, as indicated above, is with Jesus. The second is with a friend who has learned to live out the lessons that Jesus is teaching Nick. It allows Nick to put a face onto the lessons.

Early on, as I read the book, I was drawn to similarities between this story and The Shack. by William P. Young. In the last half of the book, the author draws the reader into the parallel worlds that represent Gregory’s and Young’s work. Each presents the reader with a glimpse of Jesus in fictional stories, but stories that teach. Readers who have read Gregory’s or Young’s earlier works, will enjoy the on-going story laid out in Night With A Perfect Stranger.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Scroll : A Review

The Scroll


Grant R. Jeffrey

Alton L. Gansky

A Review

I looked forward to reading The Scroll when I first picked it up. The story's concept focused on a Copper Scroll discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1952. The Copper Scroll is thought to be an inventory of valuable objects - most likely from the second temple - hidden from the Romans as they began to invade the Holy Land. The premise is good.

As I said , I looked forward to reading The Scroll when I first picked it up to read. That was not how it worked out. The first 25% of the book went so slow, I decided to use the text-to-speech features of my e-reader to read the next 50% of the book - allowing me to read/hear the story at its pace, rather than mine. The final 25% of the book went faster - in fact as I came to the end of the story, I could not put the book down until I had finished it. The premise is good - the telling of the story less so.

After reading the book, I discovered that the author, Grant R. Jeffrey, is an competent author of prophetic literature, both fictional and theological. Similarly, Alton L. Gansky is a prolific author of mostly Christian fiction. This collaboration did manage to introduce me to current archaeological discoveries and political issues which are defining much of the middle east. Sadly, the lack of references made it impossible to tell the real from the fictional without considerable additional research.

If I had known Grant Jeffrey’s history, I probably would not have been caught by surprise by the ending of the book. Without giving details here, the final elements of the book seemed out of character with the rest of the book.

The book had value - though it was not my favorite read this year. If the reader is a fan of either of the two authors, then I expect it would be an enjoyable read - I did not know either author and walked away a bit disappointed.
This review was based on a free copy of the book provided by the publisher in order to prepare this review.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Prepare the Preacher While Preparing the Sermon

Dr. Leonard (Lenny) Luchetti has performed a service to those of us who preach by writing Preaching Essentials. The book is not designed to be a HOW-TO book on sermon preparation (though part of the text does speak to that task), rather the focus of the book is in preparing the man who will step into the pulpit to fulfil that job.

It was more than thirty years ago that I sat in the classroom of Dr. Lloyd Perry, whose class and textbook taught a method that I still use today as I prepare for the pulpit. Dr. Luchetti’s book would have served as a great compliment to Dr. Perry’s text. Dr. Perry focuses on preparing the message, Dr. Luchetti focuses on preparing the messenger.

I especially appreciated the fact that the author encourages the preacher to know his audience - as individuals, as a church, and as a community - providing several practical and effectibe tools for gathering these details. He goes further and provides tools for using the data collected and allowing it to impact the preacher and, from this, the sermon.

The book is appreciative of much that occurs in preaching, e.g. textual and topical, or linear and narrative. After taking time to describe each approach, Luchetti carefully outlines the strengths and weaknesses of each as well. What Luchetti does not do is detail how to prepare each kind of sermon.

Luchetti’s writing style is easy going and inviting. Chapters are short and remain on target. Though the book contains lots of suggestions which will contribute to a successful career in the pulpit. Though, not every suggestions includes specific examples, many of them do.

Unless used by a master teacher, this book is not suitable as the main text in a homiletics course. On the other hand, this book should be an ancillary text in every homiletics course. It provides the details needed by a successful preacher that will have received the tools and methods for developing a message from another resource. I do wish it had been used thirty years ago as I sat in Dr. Lloyd Perry’s classroom.

The practicing preacher will want to use this enjoyable book as a tool to refresh and prepare for the next few years of his or her career.
This review was prepared using a free electronic copy of the book provided by the publisher.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Indescibable : A Review


Encountering the Glory of God in the Beauty of the Universe
(Illustrated Edition)


Louie Giglio and Matt Redman

A Review

The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

(Psalm 19:1)

Science has made the truth of this scripture increasingly more obvious. Louie Giglio and Matt Redman have taken the time to compile images along with their commentary to illustrate this truth as well.

The book belongs in every church library and it belongs on the coffee table of every believer. Though that was where I read it, it does not belong on an e-reader. The images are gorgeous, the text is thoughtful. As Francis Collins once wrote, as quoted by the authors, “BY INVESTIGATING GOD’S MAJESTIC AND AWESOME CREATION, SCIENCE CAN ACTUALLY BE A MEANS OF WORSHIP.” (Capitalization in the original).

The next time I am out camping and look up into the night sky, I will remember that I do serve an awesome God.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.

The Search Committee : A Review

The Search Committee


Tim Owens

A Review

People are broken - whether they are member of a church or not, whether they are members of a search committee or not, or whether they are pastors looking for a place to serve. Tim Owens understood this as he wrote The Search Committee.

The book draws the reader in - I became attached in small ways to each member of the search committee and to others. I found tears as Pastor John found his voice anew and as Matt realized the grace he was allowed to show to Julie. I cried for Dot and Bill as they each experienced loss in their unique ways. As Pastor John says in one sermon, these events are all evidence of the brokeness that is part of the human race. And it is for this brokeness that Christ gave his life.

God is not about meeting perfect people - God reaches out to imperfect, broken people, and uses them where they are. And when he does, amazing things can happen. This is the story of The Search Committee.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.