Monday, March 29, 2010

Book Review: More Than a Carpenter, Revised Edition

book cover

More Than a Carpenter, Revised Edition
by Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell

Trade Paperback: 190 pages
Publisher: Tyndale
First Released: 2009

Source: Bought from Books-A-Million.

Book Description (from publisher website, slightly modified):
The inspirational classic, More than a Carpenter, is now updated for a new generation of seekers with a fresh look, revised material, and a new chapter that addresses questions commonly raised today, especially by today’s popular atheist writers.

Former skeptic Josh McDowell is now joined by his son Sean as they examine the evidence about Jesus. Is he really the Lord he claimed to be? How can we know for sure? More than a Carpenter offers arguments for faith from a skeptic turned believer and has introduced countless people to the real Jesus.

More Than a Carpenter is a book that defends the Christian faith. The authors pack a lot of information into this slim book, but it's written with a conversational tone and is easy to read and understand.

The authors used common questions they've been asked during talks to start most of the sections, then they answer them using information they've discovered themselves or by quoting other experts. In this revised edition, they added updated material and a new section on science to answer newer objections that have been raised.

They convincingly answer the most common objections or doubts about the Bible and Jesus. However, I do wish they had put chapter six directly after chapter one since a reader can validly criticize the "Lord, Liar, or Lunatic" argument if you haven't already proven that the Bible is an accurate record of the words and actions of Jesus.

The main questions answered were: Did Jesus really claim to be God? Can't he just be a good, moral teacher? Doesn't science prove that the Bible is wrong? Atheists can be moral and religion has caused the worst suffering in the world, so shouldn't we get rid of it? Wasn't the New Testament written long after Jesus lived, so how can we believe it's a reliable account of what happened?

It also brought up how the disciples changed from thinking they were wrong about Jesus and hiding in fear to proclaiming a risen Messiah; the missing body of Jesus that no one ever brought out to prove the disciples wrong; and the change of Saul/Paul from hunting down those who believed in Jesus as the Messiah to preaching that Jesus was the Messiah. Also, evidence that Jesus really did die and really did come back from the dead; that Jesus really was the Messiah (using Old Testament prophesy); and why Jesus is the only way "to heaven."

I'd highly recommend this book to all Christians and to those who have honest questions.

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 from Chapter Six, pages 71-73)
We can appreciate the tremendous wealth of manuscript authority for the New Testament by comparing it to textual material available to support other notable ancient writings.

The history of Thucydides (460-400 BC) is available to us from only eight manuscripts dated about AD 900, almost thirteen hundred years after he wrote. The manuscripts of the history of Herodotus are likewise late and scarce. And yet, as F.F. Bruce, Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis at the University of Manchester, concludes,

No classical scholar would listen to an argument that the authenticity of Herodotus or Thucydides is in doubt because the earliest manuscripts of their works which are of use to us are over 1,300 years later than the originals.

Aristotle wrote his poetics around 343 BC, and yet the earliest copy we have is dated AD 1100 (a gap of almost fourteen hundred years), and only forty-nine manuscripts exist.

Caesar composed his history of the Gallic Wars between 58 and 50 BC, and its manuscript authority rests on nine or ten copies dating one thousand years after his death.

Bruce Metzger, author or editor of fifty books on the manuscript authority of the New Testament looks at other first-century notables:

Consider Tacitus, the Roman historian who wrote his Annals of Imperial Rome in about A.D. 116. His first six books exist today in only one manuscript, and it was copied about A.D. 850. Books eleven through sixteen are in another manuscript dating from the eleventh century. Books seven through ten are lost. So there is a long gap between the time that Tacitus sought his information and wrote it down and the only existing copies.

With regard to the first-century historian Josephus, we have nine Greek manuscripts of his work, The Jewish War, and these copies were written in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries. There is a Latin translation from the fourth century and medieval Russian materials from the eleventh or twelfth century.

"The quality of the New Testament material," confesses Metzger, "is almost embarrassing in comparison with other works of antiquity."

When I first wrote this book in 1977, I was able to document forty-six hundred Greek manuscripts of the Bible, abundantly more source material than exists for any other book written in antiquity. As of this writing, even more Greek manuscripts have been found, and I can now document more than fifty-six hundred of them.

Read table of contents and chapter one.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Book Quotes: What the Lord has Done

From Above All, Love by Julie Ackerman Link (p.126-127):

In his vision on the island of Patmos, the apostle John saw four living creatures seated around God's throne who kept repeating the same few words. "Day and night the never stop saying: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come" (Revelation 4:8).

I used to think, What a boring existence!

But I no longer think that. Instead I think about what it's like spending time with someone I love, or doing something I love to do. I don't want to leave; I don't want to stop. I want time to stand still.

That must be what it's like for the special creatures in John's Revelation. I try to imagine the scenes they have witnessed from their position around God's throne. I consider how amazed they must be at God's patient and loving involvement with wayward earthlings. And then I think, What other response could there be? What else is there to say but "Holy, holy, holy"?

and from pages 171-172:

In making personal "to do" lists for God, however, we miss seeing the countless things He has already done. When we wait in doubt and disappointment for God to do the one thing we demand of Him, we miss seeing everything God is doing and has already done.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

And the winner is...

It's time to announce the winner of Crave by Chris Tomlinson. Using a random number generator and numbering the entrants in the order I received them, the winner is:


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 Books-A-Million (see the sidebar for instructions on getting a ChristFocus Book Club discount on your order) or your favorite bookstore.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Book Review: Christ in the Passover

book cover

Christ in the Passover
by Ceil Rosen, Moishe Rosen

Trade Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: Moody Publishers
First Released: 1978

Source: Borrowed from my church library.

Back Cover Description (highly modified):
Christ in the Passover gives you the knowledge that an Orthodox Jew has about the Passover so you can relate to the references to it in the Bible. The information can also help you see the Messiah as the Passover Lamb.

Christ in the Passover is a Christ-focused, Biblical view of the Passover celebration. Using the Bible as their main source, the authors explained why Israel was chosen by God, the history leading up to the Passover, and the original commands from God on how to celebrate the Passover. They pointed out the parts of this celebration that we now know symbolize the death of Jesus the Messiah for our sins.

Then they commented on how the Passover was celebrated up until Jesus' time, the sights and sounds of Jerusalem during the Passover in Jesus time, what the Passover meal was like during Jesus' time, and what the modern Passover is like and why it's different. In all these cases, they pointed out the parts of the Passover meal that point to Christ. They also described when during the "Last Supper" Passover meal that he added the parts that have become the Christian communion celebration.

While I've heard much of this information before, this book had some new (to me) details, like the description of the larger scene of the celebration and several bits of the symbolism in the Passover meal.

Overall, I'd recommend this book to people who want a thorough, in-depth look at the Passover and how it points to Christ.

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 from Chapter 5
At Passover, a constant stream of humanity ribboned the highways leading into first-century Jerusalem. Devout Jews poured in from distant corners of the world to worship Jehovah on the mountain of His holiness. If at all possible, those Jews who lived within a few days' journey came up to Jerusalem three times a year: at Passover, at Pentecost, and at the Feast of Booths. But for many who lived very far from Jerusalem, the lengthy pilgrimage at Passover was the fulfillment of a once-in-a-lifetime dream.

Weeks before the holiday, the trickles began--from Asia Minor, from Egypt, from Africa, from Italy, from Greece, from Mesopotamia--and soon the stream became a river. The current of this river flowed upward. Whether the first part of the journey was by boat or by land, no one ever went down to Jerusalem. The holy city sat like a crown 2,610 feet above sea level, and the Temple was its brightest, most prominent jewel. In order to reach this destination, all travelers first had to go through the surrounding valleys. The contrasting loftiness of that final ascent built a sense of holiness and awe within the pilgrims as they climbed ever upward.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Book Quotes: Grace and Forgiveness

From The Joseph Road by Jerry White (page 174):

Grace isn't cheap; it's costly. Joseph's forgiveness of his brothers was based not on their performance or even their outward repentance (though they asked him to forgive) but on his view of God. It is God who forgives. In the Old Testament, forgiveness required sacrifice, but sacrifices don't forgive a person--God chooses to do that.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

DVD Review: Death and Resurrection of the Messiah

DVD cover

That the World May Know:
Faith Lessons on the Death and Resurrection of the Messiah

Length: 3 hours 14 minutes
Publisher: Zondervan
First Released: 2005

Source: Rented it from Netflix.

Back Cover Description:
Sail the stormy waters of the Sea of Galilee, and stand fast before the gates of hell at Decapolis. Travel the dusty road to Jerusalem, where Jesus made His triumphal entry. As you learn all about Jesus' death and resurrection through this fascinating program, you'll discover the power Christ has given to you to confront the evils of our day and change the world. This video is the fourth volume of the "That the World May Know" series.

Death and Resurrection of the Messiah is the fourth volume of the "That the World May Know" series. If you've never had a chance to travel in Israel and you can rent or borrow this series, then I'd highly recommend you do. It has nice footage of the Holy Land so that you can get a feel for what the land looks like now. It helps to bring the Bible alive.

Even though I've been to Israel and have read a lot of "cultural background to the Bible" books, then I enjoyed this disk as it gave information I hadn't heard before and allowed a closer look at the Jerusalem model than I could get in person.

The lessons were filmed like you were a part of a tour group, but with added graphics, pictures, and aerial shots when appropriate. The format was that at each new site the teacher would give us the history related to the site, describe what the site originally looked like (if it was now in ruins), and give a faith lesson based on what we learned at that site. Sometimes the faith lessons were only lightly related to the site and a couple seemed a bit off to me (though nothing serious). Most of the faith lessons were very nice, though.

Lesson One: Sea of Galilee - the group was on a boat in the Sea of Galilee. The leader read verses about things that happened on the Sea and drew faith lessons from them while we looked at shots of the sunrise and the shore from the boat. A man demonstrated the net casting form of fishing.

Lesson Two: Decapolis - the group sat in an unidentified ruins while verses having to do with Jesus visiting the Decapolis area where read, the history of the area explained, some interesting cultural points were drawn out, and faith lessons were given.

Lesson Three: Caesarea-Philippi area - the group stood near a pagan worship site as the leader discussed the history of this area and how that helped us understand a statement Jesus made while walking past this area. (I don't agree with his speculation that the foundational rock Jesus referred to was this pagan worship area, though.)

Lesson Four: Model of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus, the Hasmonean Tunnel, and the Beautiful Gate - Mainly discussed the model while giving nice close-ups of it, but connected that in to the other two locations. Gave history and related verses.

Lesson Five: Model of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus, ruins of a priest's mansion, and the Damascus Gate - Mainly discussed the temple, Herod's palace, and the Antonia Fortress on the model. Briefly looked at the ruins of a high-ranking priest's mansion near Herod's palace and gave a view from the top of the Damascus Gate on market day.

Lesson Six: The wilderness and Jerusalem - Footage of the wilderness canyon trail from Jericho to Jerusalem, then the group sat on the Mount of Olives overlooking modern Jerusalem. Discussed the cultural significance of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem that occurred shortly before his death. Very interesting information.

Lesson Seven: Capernaum - Discussed and viewed a demonstration on how olive presses used to work and discussed olive-tree related verses. Also, a briefly viewed a synagogue there.

Lesson Eight: The Garden Tomb - Viewed the outside of the Garden Tomb while discussing the symbolism involved in the timing of Jesus' death and in the Last Supper. Also, cultural information on related topics. Also very interesting.

Lesson Nine: Pentecost/Shavuot Feast - Sat on steps of the southern stairway to the Temple Mount and discussed the verses about God giving the holy spirit on Pentecost, the cultural significance, and the location it happened. Also very interesting.

Lesson Ten: Caesarea - Footage from around the city including a discussion about the pool, palace, baths, port, theater, amphitheater, and via Maris. Discussed the history and verses from Acts that refer to it.

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

Monday, March 15, 2010

Giveaway: Crave

book cover

I enjoyed Crave by Chris Tomlinson so much that I've decided to hold a giveaway for my review copy. Read my review to learn more about the book.

This contest is for USA and Canada residents only.

You can enter the giveaway by either:

On Twitter, send me a tweet saying "Hi @christfocus. Please enter me to win CRAVE by Chris Tomlinson."


You can leave a comment to this post asking to be entered. Please also leave some way for me to contact you or follow this blog so you can see the winner announcement.

I'll randomly select the winner at noon (central time) on March 24, 2010 and list them on this blog. I'll inform the winner and ask for their shipping address. If the winner hasn't responded within four days of notification, a new winner will be selected.

I hope everyone has fun with this, and I look forward to hearing what everyone thinks of this book!

Book Review: Crave

book cover

by Chris Tomlinson

Trade Paperback: 221 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
First Released: 2010

Author Website

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Back Cover Description (highly modified):
There's so much more to life and faith than this. And we know it.

We all crave something. Many people try to fill this craving with sex, money, work, service, or religion, but satisfaction from these things are fleeting at best. Join Chris Tomlinson in his journey of seeking more of God and his realization that a close, day-to-day relationship with Him is what lastingly satisfies our cravings.

...knowing and being known by Jesus is the only way we can satisfy [our cravings]....He was there, waiting...ready to give me more of Himself as I gave Him more of myself. He was the source of my cravings, sending them up through my soul and into my body, because He knew they would lead me on a search for satisfaction that would point me back to the joy of being with Him.

Crave is both a Spiritual Growth book and an open, honest memoir of Chris Tomlinson's often-humorous journey of spiritual discovery. He used experiences from his life as parables to teach solidly Bible-based principles in an easy-to-grasp fashion.

He came across as encouraging rather than judgmental, and his focus was on drawing closer to God by focusing on building our relationship with Him. It's written for regular Christians who aren't entirely satisfied with their Christian walk, and it helps them get their focus back where it ought to be rather than the mechanics of doing prayer, service, etc, "right."

I appreciated that he acknowledged the tensions of God's character (like "God is love, but He's also just") rather than focusing exclusively on one trait. I also liked that he referred to all three members of the Trinity.

The chapters built progressively on each other, and some of the topics covered were: praying as a conversation (which involves listening), purity (what we let in our minds might be hard to get rid of), being different (in a good way), getting out of your comfort zone and following God's leading when reaching out to others, loving others, God is God and we're not Him, who sets the standards of right and wrong, trusting God like a child, spiritual nourishment, how God uses suffering, and finding the joy of the LORD and in the LORD.

I enjoyed this book quite a lot. Overall, I thought it was well-written and easy-to-understand, 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 from pages 60-61
But being a light is difficult. I just don't have the wattage, and I tend toward the darkness more often than the light. I face the teachings of Jesus and realize my natural inclination is to step away from the glow rather than toward it.

Deny myself? Why would I do that? I like myself a lot, and I like to do what I feel like doing.

Turn the other cheek? What? If someone hits me, I want to level him.

Give to those who ask? Are you kidding me? You don't know how hard I have worked for this money, and you expect me to give it away to someone else?

With every choice in my day--spending time with God or blowing Him off, serving Anna or waiting to be served, getting upset with the guy who cut me off or letting it pass, showing respect to an undeserving coworker or talking trash behind his back, helping a friend move or sitting on my couch, offering my hand to the guy with the sign by the highway or turning my head away--I decide to step toward or away from the light of Christ. And these decisions mean everything to my faith. They either harden my heart...or they soften my spirit....

Something about these choices is powerful; they can draw me nearer to God. Coming close to a roaring campfire makes you warm. Coming close to the brilliant light of God makes you a light as well. We are wicks, and the only way we can burn bright for Christ is to come close enough to catch His fire.

So as I stand in the glow of Christ in this great, dark room, I want to move toward Him. I want to delight myself in His Word and spend time in conversation with Him, allowing His light to illuminate all the spiritual trash in my home. My cravings for Him have to overcome my fear of exposure, and they compel me to do silly things like pick up my neighbors' [physical] trash.

But the great part about drawing close to God is that He draws close to us. We may not always feel like that's true, but we have to keep taking small steps toward His light, knowing and believing that He will shine through us to the rest of this world.

Read chapter one.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Book Quotes: Forgiveness

From What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend (pages 35-36):

If you are going to leave your baggage behind, you must forgive those who have wounded you. Take your cue from God, who has forgiven your sins. If you don't forgive, your resentment will continue to eat away at your heart and keep you from the freedom you seek on God's way.

Your forgiveness of others does not mean you deny that someone has hurt you, nor does it mean you must trust that person again. The future of your relationship depends on many factors. But forgiveness is about resolving the past. It is about clearing up what has already happened. It is about canceling the debt someone owes you. That's what it means to forgive. You are saying that the offender no longer owes you, that you are releasing him or her from all grudges, penalties, and retribution.

So leave the baggage of past hurts behind. Forgiveness is your ticket of freedom to do forward in your life.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Book Review: Eyewitness

book cover

The Life of Christ Told in One Story
by Frank Ball

Trade Paperback: 287 pages
Publisher: Winepress Publishing
First Released: 2008

Source: Won this book in a giveaway by another book blogger.

Back Cover Description:
Some of the details of Jesus’ life were recorded by four of his closest followers. Each account is written from a different perspective, and only one of the four tells the events in chronological order. Therefore, for centuries, the accounts have been told in out-of-sequence fragments.

Eyewitness compiles the information from the Gospels and hundreds of other Bible verses into one chronological story. As you read this account, you can walk with Jesus, hear his voice, see what he does, and discover the joy of following him.

Eyewitness was the gospel accounts (and related Scripture) combined into one chronological account of Jesus' life and ministry. The author used his own "easy to understand" translation of the gospels. Overall, I enjoyed his translation, though a few times I felt his word choice was poorly chosen and potentially misleading.

Several times, he combined two events into one that are clearly two separate events in the Bible. I also sometimes questioned his sequence of events. However, it was very interesting to get another person's view of what the gospel chronology was like.

This book was read out loud as a group read, and two listeners had never read a "gospels combined and put in chronological order" account before and found it most interesting. It certainly sparked a lot of discussion and investigation of our own.

I liked that the author placed the Old Testament verses that are referred to in the gospels directly into the gospel text as you read along. I thought he did a good job with that.

If you've never read a "gospels combined and put in chronological order" account before, I'd certainly recommend doing so as it gives you a new perspective on events. All I had when I did it was a list of verses to daily look up in a certain order, so having them all worked together in one book does have it's advantages. As long as you keep in mind that Eyewitness is not the definitive version but a useful tool, then I'd 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 from page 29-30:
Jesus grows up in Nazareth.
Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Zechariah 6:12; Matthew 2:19-23; Luke 2:39-52

After Herod's death, an angel of God appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Get up and take the child and his mother to Israel. Those who tried to kill the child are now dead."

So Joseph left Egypt with his family and would have settled in Judea but heard that Archelaus reigned in place of his father, Herod. Afraid to go there, and warned in a dream, Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Nazareth, a village in the Galilean hills. That fulfilled what the prophets had written: He will be called a Nazarene. A twig will bud from the stock of Jesse, and a branch will bear fruit from his roots. A righteous branch will spring up from David, a wise king who will bring righteousness and justice to the land. From where he is, he will spring forth and build the temple of the Lord.

The child grew and became strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God's grace was upon him.

When Jesus was twelve, the family went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover festival, according to Jewish custom. Afterward, when leaving for home, his parents did not realize that he had stayed behind. They traveled for a whole day, assuming he was elsewhere in the caravan. When he did not show up that evening, they looked for him among relatives and friends. Unable to find him, they went back to Jerusalem and searched. Finally, after three days, they found him in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening and asking questions. His understanding and his answers amazed everyone.

Joseph and Mary were shocked. "Son," Mary said, "why have you treated us this way? Your father and I have been frantically searching everywhere."

"Why?" Jesus asked. "Didn't you know I would have to be here, doing the work of my father?"

They did not understand what he meant, but Mary held this event dear to her heart.

Jesus returned to Nazareth with them, submitting to their authority. As the years passed, he grew physically and spiritually, enjoying the favor of God and the people.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Book Quotes: God's Will

From How to Reach Your Full Potential for God by Charles Stanley (pages 72-73):

If you don't know God's will, ask Him to help you concentrate on His Word as you read it. Pray for Him to show you the character He desires to forge in you, the priorities He calls you to have, the kinds of thoughts He wants you to think, and the behaviors that He expects you to avoid. You'll be well on your way to knowing His will!

From page 178: the One who takes what we do and turns it into an accomplishment or a success. You may think that you have engineered your success in the past, or that you are capable of engineering it in the future. That is not the case. You are responsible for making the effort and devoting your time and energy to the task you believe God has set before you. The results are His domain. He is the One who turns your action into souls won, lives changed, needs met, and doors opened for the gospel.

The good news in this is that God will take even the smallest sincere effort on your part, multiply it, and use it for your good and the good of others. You can only plant a seed--you cannot grow it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

DVD Review: Life and Ministry of the Messiah

DVD cover

That the World May Know:
Faith Lessons on the Life and Ministry of the Messiah

Length: 2 hours 35 minutes
Publisher: Zondervan
First Released: 2005

Source: Rented it from Netflix.

Back Cover Description:
Marvel at the magnificence of Herod's palace and how it shaped the culture of the day, and enjoy an amazing hike among the ruins of Qumran. You'll delight in the beautiful and mesmerizing simplicity of Jesus' parables as you study the events of Jesus' day that impacted His life, ministry and communication with his disciples and the public. This video is the third volume of the "That the World May Know" series.

The Life and Ministry of the Messiah is the third volume of the "That the World May Know" series. If you've never had a chance to travel in Israel and you can rent or borrow this series, then I'd highly recommend you do. It has nice footage of the Holy Land so that you can get a feel for what the land looks like now. It helps to bring the Bible alive.

If you've been to Israel and have read a lot of "cultural background to the Bible" books, then you probably know almost everything that's on this disk, though you might see a few places not on most Holy Land tours.

The lessons were filmed like you were a part of a tour group, but with added graphics, pictures, and aerial shots when appropriate. Only about half of the 8 lessons on this disk actually focused on Jesus or his teachings (see below). The format was that at each new site the teacher would give us the history related to the site, describe what the site originally looked like (if it was now in ruins), and give a brief faith lesson based on what we learned at that site. Sometimes the faith lessons were only lightly related to the site and a couple seemed a bit off to me (though nothing serious). Most of the faith lessons were very nice, though.

Lesson One: Herod's Palace - the history of Herod and a view of Bethlehem.

Lesson Two: Masada - why it was built and the history of the revolt in 66 AD.

Lesson Three: Qumran - the history of the Essenes.

Lesson Four: Mountain of Beatitudes and the city of Chorazin - cultural information about what houses looked like and about marriage ceremonies at the time of Jesus.

Lesson Five: a zealot city - information on Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, synagogues, and rabbis.

Lesson Six: the city of Sepphoris - what Jesus did for a trade before his ministry and explanations of various cultural references (to the theater, recent history, and tax collectors) that Jesus used in his teaching.

Lesson Seven: the crusader fort called Belvoir - a brief history of the crusades.

Lesson Eight: the wadi of En Gedi - how David came to this place and the significance of living water.

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

Monday, March 1, 2010

Book Discussion for The Ultimate Proof

Believing God cover

If you're reading our March/April book, The Ultimate Proof of Creation by Dr. Jason Lisle, this is where you can make comments on the book, ask questions, or answer questions that I post here.

Click on the title of this post to see the discussion.

If you're not familiar with blogger, you can then leave a comment by:

1) Scrolling down to the bottom of the discussion (preferably after reading the discussion ;) ).

2) Click on the "Post a Comment" link. The comment box will pop up as a separate webpage. Write your comments in the text box.

3) Look below the text box and the "Choose an identity" line. Choose the "Name/URL" option. Type your first name into the correct place and click the "Publish Your Comment" button.

4) Your comment should now be posted.

Book Review: Dancing with My Father

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Dancing with My Father
by Sally Clarkson

Trade Paperback: 223 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
First Released: 2010

Publisher's Book Page

Source: Review copy from the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Back Cover Description (slightly modified):
Let Your Soul Dance with Delight in God

Are you overwhelmed by weariness, fear, or discouragement? Do you wonder, "Where can I go to claim the promise of Jesus that my joy could be made full?"

When Sally Clarkson noticed a lack of joy in her own life, she realized how easy it can be, especially for women with overloaded to-do lists, to feel weighed down by drudgery and disappointment. But rather than slogging through her days, Sally wanted to know the delight of God's presence. She began prayerfully exploring how to cultivate deep-rooted joy even in the midst of difficult seasons.

Weaving biblical insights with real-life stories that reflect every Christian woman's deepest longings, Dancing with My Father reveals how any woman, in any circumstance, can daily live in joy and peace.

Dancing with My Father was partly a memoir and partly a Christian Living book. The book seemed disjointed and inconsistent due to the way it was written. For example, in chapter two, there was an underlying emphasis on performing well for God and the author heaped praises on David for what he did when trusting God, but chapter nine was all about how God doesn't base our worth on our performance. The ideas, as presented, didn't strike me as balancing each other but as conflicting with each other.

When giving examples from her life (which took up about half of the book), the author put in so much detail and her stories lasted so long that I often lost track of what point she was trying to make. These sections often turned into 'sharing her memories' (i.e. a memoir) rather than 'real life illustrations.'

She also sometimes used terms in an odd way. For example, she said in chapter two that we need to see with our hearts. "Heart" usually refers to our emotions, and that's how she used it later, but here it became obvious she meant that we needed to see events from God's perspective. I don't think she meant that viewing life through our emotions gives us an accurate view of God's perspective (which isn't biblical), but I'm not sure why she used "heart" here.

Another thing that baffled me was her apparently changing view of the Bible. At the very beginning, while making some points based on a children's story version of the fight between David and Goliath--and she even summarized the story--she apologized for using the Bible so much. In my opinion, she didn't use the Bible much at all, though she did have plenty of verses on joy somewhat randomly spread throughout the book. She mainly made her points based on her personal experiences and the advice of her friends. Ironically, this works since her friends based their advice off of what the Bible teaches.

She then made a jab at people who like to study and discuss the Bible as only having head knowledge about God rather than a relationship with Him, as if the two can't co-exist. Later, she again criticized those who dared to discuss the Bible with others as only having head knowledge. (She never confined her criticism to only those who say, "you're not a Christian if you don't agree with my theology.') She emphasized "heart knowledge" as superior, though she admitted we needed head knowledge, too. (BTW, I believe we need both in balance and one isn't superior to the other.)

In chapter five, she focused on finding joy in God's created things. She said that if we want to know what God is like, then one of the best and most complete teachers is nature (p.91). I was left thinking, "Um, what about Jesus? He was God made flesh. And the Bible gives us a much more specific knowledge about God. And don't you think He'd like us to find joy in HIM and not just the things he created?" After a long wait, chapter ten was a lovely chapter on finding enjoyment in God Himself and on the importance of reading the Bible to get a right idea of God and to guard our hearts. Again, it didn't feel like one idea balanced the other but more like the book was inconsistent.

By the way, she rarely referred to Jesus or the Holy Spirit. She did say we should study and follow Jesus' example, but not because He's God and therefore knows how to be joyful better than anybody, but because he was 'a man anointed with joy.'

The book made a lot of good points, but I'm still feeling baffled by the lack of internal consistency in places. It's also mainly about the author's life and was focused on what we do. The glances toward God and His direct role in our joy seemed few and brief. So it's not a bad book, but I'm sure there are better-written books out there on this same subject.

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.