Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ascent from Darkness by Michael Leehan

book cover

Ascent from Darkness:
How Satan's Soldier Became God's Warrior
by Michael Leehan

ISBN-13: 9780849947032
Trade Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: Oct. 4, 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher that was requested through Booksneeze.

Book Description from Booksneeze:
A life of difficulty and disappointment set 33-year old Michael Leehan up for the worst decision of his life—to make a deal with the Devil to follow and serve him. Practicing the dark arts that include ritualistic cuttings and blood sacrifices, while fine tuning his manipulation and control skills, Michael launched into a twenty year downward spiral that included job loss and detachment from loved ones, and even jail time.

But God had another plan that included a group of Christian men to love him and pray for him—even when it became evident his assignment from Satan was to kill their pastor, Craig Groeschel.

The life Michael Leehan lives today is an incredible testimony of the transforming power of God's mercy and grace, but is also a wakeup call to the church to be fully aware of the spiritual war that is going on all around them, and to the ultimate battle for their souls.

"I am sending you to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." Acts 26:18

My Review:
Ascent from Darkness is a memoir of a man who made a pact with Satan to serve him and who found that pact destroying his life. Still, Michael was afraid of giving up the power he thought his pact gave him, and he wasn't initially interested in surrendering to a God he'd been angry at since childhood. And Satan wasn't about to let Michael go serve his enemy.

It's a compelling story. Michael managed to describe the emotional and life-changing impact of his actions without getting into gory details about Satanic practices. In fact, he's very vague about many of the rituals he did (which I think was very wise for multiple reasons--for example, you can't learn how to do a satanist ritual by reading this book. And the book would have been much darker).

If you have a hard time believing in real, evil spiritual forces, you'll probably have a hard time believing this book. If you think everything bad has a demon behind it that needs to be cast out, you'll probably be disappointed. While Michael makes it clear that spiritual forces are all around us, what he describes is very in line with what the Bible teaches about angels, fallen angels, and how Christ can free those who surrender to Him.

I think this book is important for Christians to read because most don't really think about the spiritual battles being fought around them. Also, Michael talked about how, as a satanist, he'd go into churches and quote Scripture in ways to mislead Christians or try to disrupt Bible Studies by bringing up controversial subjects or by seducing the women. He pointed out something that has long concerned me: how churches tend to get people to say "the sinners prayer" and baptized but then don't make a point of mentoring them in the faith. This leaves new believers vulnerable to lies about God.

This is an excellent book, and I'd highly recommend it.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt from chapter one.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Insights on Revelation by Charles R. Swindoll

book cover

Insights on Revelation
by Charles R. Swindoll

ISBN-13: 9780310284345
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: August 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher through a freelance publicist.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Combining rich, rock-solid scholarship with a storyteller's imagery and passion, Chuck Swindoll has a gift for sweeping people into the immediacy of the Scriptures. Featuring maps, timelines, Holy Land images, and more. God's Word will come alive for you, filled with drama, power, and truth.

My Review:
Insights on Revelation is a commentary on Revelation. While the previous book I read in this series (Insights on James, 1 & 2 Peter) read like a Bible study (with plenty of Bible background information and enlightening word studies), this book read more like a sermon. The style was more telling the reader what to think about the verses rather than helping the reader understand the verses so they can potentially form their own conclusions.

Rather than discuss the different beliefs about the rapture, Swindoll simply assumed that a pre-Tribulation rapture was true. In one place he said that we're not told exactly what all the symbols mean so we shouldn't get dogmatic about them or that prophecy isn't always given in chronological order, then a little bit later he'd say that such-and-such a symbol means this or things happened in this specific order and timing when the text didn't even hint at that.

He also proposed some ideas I've never heard of before and which don't line up with what the whole Bible teaches, in my opinion. For example, he believes in four separate waves of resurrections with separate times of Judgment for each group.

If you agree with him or just want someone to tell you what to believe, then this won't bother you. However, there were times that I felt the author let his theology force his interpretation of the verses rather than letting the verses form his theology. This didn't happen much in the first half of the commentary (even in the initial prophecy sections), but it became more frequent in the last half.

The author explained who wrote Revelation, when it was written, and who it was written to. Then he took related chunks of the text and looked at each section as a whole and then verse-by-verse. At the end of each section, he discussed how we can apply the writer's message to our own lives. Since Swindoll doesn't believe that any true believer living today will live through the Tribulation, his application points for the prophetic part of Revelation were very general principles.

While his commentary on the messages-to-the-churches part of Revelation was good and mostly what I've heard preached before, I was disappointed by much of the commentary on the prophetic part. However, if you believe in the pre-Tribuation rapture of Christians, you'll probably like it.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

And the winner is...

It's time to announce the winner of the Back to Books Giveaway Hop. Including Twitter entries, 19 people entered. Using a random number generator and numbering the entrants in the order I received them, the winner is:

captainliss40 who won The New Answers Book, Vol. 2

Congratulations! I'll be contacting you for your address.

For those who didn't win, you can always buy a copy of this book from your favorite bookstore or see if they have it at your local library.