Category Archives: Character

Do You Want to be Transformed?

Transformed: Challenging Myths About the Power-Filled Life by Christy Wimber

Transformed: Challenging Myths About the Power-Filled Life       by Christy Wimber

For those of us who are serious about our faith, the idea of becoming transformed is always a priority. We’re always looking for the next step in our metamorphosis into Christlikeness. That’s why I was excited for the opportunity to review Transformed: Challenging Myths About the Power-Filled Life by Christy Wimber (Kregal). I was eager to learn what John Wimber’s daughter-in-law would add to my Christian walk. Her chapter topics increased my enthusiasm: what Jesus said yes to, mercy, renewing the mind, identity, grace, and calling. She identifies transformation as a journey, not a destination and focuses on deliberate, sacrificial choices as vehicles for transformation. All good ideas.

Unfortunately, the book fell short of my expectations. I think there were some good ideas in it, but they were often lost in a rambling narrative that would have benefited from a strong editor. Her writing was not tight and she often didn’t choose the best words or phrases to make her arguments. Her points were weakened by redundancy and rambling. Callout boxes didn’t reinforce or repeat important concepts. They were simply the next sentence, with little reason for being set apart. There were few stories or examples – just narrative. And while she offered some good theories, there was little in the way of practical “how to.” The result was a book I was not eager to return to and few memorable points.

I would love to see this book rewritten and re-edited. It’s clearly a concept needed by today’s Christians. But sadly, this edition doesn’t cut it.

Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control

"Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of control from Seven Women in the Bible" by Shannon Popkin

“Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of control from Seven Women in the Bible” by Shannon Popkin

What do Eve, Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah, Leah, Rachel, and Miriam have in common? According to Shannon Popkin, they are all “Control Girls.” And what is a “control girl?” It’s a girl (or woman) who, one way or another, believe that it is good, right, or necessary to take control. They take control over their husbands, their kids, their circumstances, and try hard to control God. Their motives and methods are different, but the result is always the same – tragedy.

In Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible, Popkin has taken a topic I’ve seen little written about and tackled it well. She is an excellent writer, skillfully blending solid biblical study with personal examples. She goes deep by lesson 2, which I appreciated. And every lesson was peppered with good strategies, penetrating application questions, and depth I seldom see in a women’s book. Great job for her first book. You’ll want this book for yourself, your women’s group, or for someone you love.

My only complaint about this book is that she aimed it squarely at and for women. Sure, we need it. But her points are equally pertinent to men, and I’m sure she could have found a half dozen men to write about. I would love to use a book like this for a co-ed Bible study or in ministry with male clients. But hey, let’s get the women in line and pray for the men!

 

Waiting for Wonder

Waiting for Wonder: Learning to Live on God's Timeline by Marlo Schalesky

Waiting for Wonder: Learning to Live on God’s Timeline by Marlo Schalesky

Full disclosure: Marlo Schalesky is not only a friend, but also one of my favorite fiction authors. She and I attended the same seminary, although not at the same time. I’ve know her for many years and have watched her live out an amazing Christian life. But I must say, Waiting for Wonder: Learning to Live on God’s Timeline is a giant leap forward in her writing. In this book, Marlo has combined her remarkable fiction skills with her academic prowess – a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary. That may sound like an odd combination – and it is. But Marlo pulls it off with aplomb. The result is an engaging read, peppered with historical and theological facts. And then she tops it all off with personal application and challenging questions.

Waiting for Wonder: Learning to Live on God’s Timelineis the story of Sarah. I’ve heard many sermons and read a few books on Abraham, but few on Sarah. Who was she? What was her world like, and how did she navigate it? How did she respond to being essentially a pawn in Abraham’s drama? How did she manage the twenty-five year wait between the promise and the fulfillment?  And so what? Why do I care?

A Compelling and Scholarly Saga

Marlo weaves a compelling saga, laced with insights from scholarly authorities. Her theme is, of course, waiting – and finding God in the wait. Imagine being infertile and then in your old age, being promised a son. A son from your womb! Imagine the roller coaster of emotion as month follows month, year follows year with no son. Imagine the frustration of being a woman in that culture, a woman whose husband leaves home, family, and a good life behind and becomes a nomad to chase a promise from his God. His invisible God, by the way. Did Abram really hear God? Is this invisible God really able to pull off his promise? If so, what is taking so long?

Admit it. Sarah’s story is all too often our story. Sarah’s wait reflects our seemingly endless wait. Sarah’s flimsy faith and attempts to help God out – well, yeah…..

This book is well worth the read. It’s an excellent devotional and would also be a meaningful book for a small group.

Marlo Schalesky’s ‘Waiting for Wonder’ Giveaway (12/6-1/23)

Waiting for Wonder Marlo Schalesky

Related Posts:

Lessons on Living to 104

Being Cultivated or Pursuing?

When There Are No Easy Answers

When There Are No Easy Answers by John S. Feinberg

When There Are No Easy Answers: Thinking Differently About God, Suffering, and Evil by John S. Feinberg

We’ve all heard the stories. Some of us live them. How do you reconcile the worst types of suffering in life with the notion of a good God?

John S. Feinberg is one who is living “the worst” of suffering. His wife, Pat, has suffered from Huntington’s Disease, an incurable, debilitating, genetic disorder, for over 25 years. For many years, she has been unable to walk, talk, or respond. In addition, his children are at risk because the disease is genetically transmitted. Pat’s mother probably suffered from Huntington’s and the information was in her medical record, but was not made available to them until years after her diagnosis. So Feinberg, a seminary professor, was hit with not one, but several, tragedies–each one raising theological and emotional questions.

In When There Are No Easy Answers: Thinking Differently About God, Suffering and Evil (Kregel Publications), Feinberg uses his theological training and life experience to grapple with the many questions that suffering raises. The result is a raw attempt to make sense of the nonsensical. He tackles the character of God and the stupidity of friends. He offers theological assessments and practical tips.

I was especially drawn to this book because my husband has Parkinson’s Disease, and while he is still quite functional, I know from friends in my support group what most likely lies ahead. I strongly recommend this book for anyone struggling with theodicy – the question why a good God permits the manifestation of evil, for anyone facing personal or health issues they don’t understand. It isn’t an easy book to read, although it is quite readable. It will make you think, pray, and discuss. It will help you become a woman of splendor. And hopefully, will give you answers to make the journey a little more tolerable.

 

Hidden Agenda: Dropping the Masks That Keep Us Apart

Hidden Agenda: Dropping the Masks That Keep Us Apart by Steve Brown

Hidden Agenda: Dropping the Masks That Keep Us Apart by Steve Brown

You wear a mask. I wear a mask. We all wear masks. But it should not be so. And Steve Brown is determined that we know every possible way we adopt hidden agendas.

No one can argue with his premise. It’s human nature to hide our true selves. We fear authenticity. We may abhor phonies, but when it comes right down to it, we’re all about as phony as they come. And then we pretend no one notices.

Brown’s style pulls no punches. He’s clear, concise, and in your face. He writes with the humor of an excellent speaker, punctuating truth with a dash of absurdity. The book reads like a spoken sermon, laced with phrases cleverly turned and fingers pointed.

As well written as the book is, I found it rather tedious. It seemed that he made his point well in the first couple of chapters. Then he made it again and again and again. It reminded me of the speakers’ mantra: “Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them.” Except that he put several more “tell them’s” in the middle.  And yet, perhaps this is a new concept to some readers. Perhaps some are blinded to their hidden agendas and need them pointed out in several different ways before they get it.

Brown redeemed himself in the last couple of chapters when brought it home and applied the concepts to the church where he advocates “a new kind of family.” The book includes discussion questions at the end of each chapter, making the book useful for small groups or personal journaling.

Hunting Hope

When I receive a book for review, I can usually tell within a few pages if it’s one I want to keep or pass on. If it’s one I’ll tell clients about or one I’ll shelve and forget. Hunting Hope: Dig Through the Darkness to Find the Light by Nika Maples is not only a book I’ll keep and recommend, but also one I’m ordering for my ministry’s bookstore. I began underlining on page 2 (page one was very short) and I have tabs throughout. My indication of a good book.

So what’s so great about this book? Other than everything?

Authentic Voice:

First, Maples speaks with an authentic voice. She is a survivor of systemic lupus and a massive brainstem stroke that left her a quadriplegic at age 20. She fought her way back and became a public school teacher in her native Texas. She still struggles with the lupus and with falls. But she has learned how to mine God’s character and conform hers. She doesn’t sugarcoat her points, but rather shares from the depths of her discipleship.

Excellent Writing:

Not only does Maples make good points. She makes them well. She has the ability to turn a phrase, and then illustrates her points with great stories—most of them aimed at herself. Hunting Hope is a good read, a compelling read.

Transformational Points:

Maples has been tested in the fire. She had to learn to trust God or die. Her writing isn’t theoretical. It’s real. And transformational. If readers will pay attention, she offers hope for those trapped in situations that don’t seem fair. She shows God to be faithful. She says, “when we have nothing left to lean on, we learn to lean on God.”

It seems that most writers are either all miracle—believe God will heal everything all the time. Or no miracle—just thank God in the suffering. Maples says, “We should always ask for a miracle, but while we wait, God’s calming presence in our lives is a miracle in itself.” She focuses on obedience: “God unfolds His plan after the person takes a step of obedience, not before.” She affirms that wounded warriors have a vital place in the church: “Our worst life experiences may be exactly what qualify us to lead with authority…. The darkest moments of our lives might be the beginning of our divine mission on earth. So many times, the battlefield is a training ground.” And she recognizes that trials are just an exercise. An opportunity to grow in godliness.

My Only Complaint:

I’m usually not a fan of discussion questions in books. They are usually trite. But this is one book I wished Maples had added discussion questions. Now I’m going to have to write them myself. I’m pretty sure I’ll be teaching this book.

So please, I don’t say this often, but BUY THIS BOOK.

Hunting Hope Nika Maples

Anointed … And Stupid

We see it in Scripture—and unfortunately, in real life—all the time.

A person is highly gifted. Anointed. Being used by the Lord. But then they get stupid and everyone is left scratching their head.

Samson's Final Vengeance

Samson’s Final Vengeance                                                     Photo Credit: Kurt Cope (BPECA)

Samson’s Final Vengeance

Take Samson. Called and chosen before conception. A Nazarite from birth. Called to judge Israel and save them from the Philistines. But his downfall was women. After living a pure, set apart life, he hits young adulthood and lusts after a Philistine woman (Judg. 14:3). He took her as his wife (in clear violation of Deuteronomy 7:3), and in his youthful arrogance, baited his 30 Philistine “companions” with a silly riddle. He then allowed his wife to manipulate him into divulging the answer to his riddle. So he seized the prize from 30 men of Askalon, a Philistine town 20 miles away. Scripture says the Spirit of the Lord came on him in power (Judg. 14:19) and he conquered these unsuspecting men.

Yes, he was anointed. He had the Spirit of God. But was he fulfilling God’s call on his life? Then adding injury to insult, he abandoned his wife in a huff. Her father gave her to one of the friends. When Samson decided he wanted her back but her father refused, he tied torches to the tails of 300 foxes and burned the grain of the Philistines. This, of course, caused even more ire among the Philistines, who threatened the Israelites. His response was neither wise nor politically correct. “I merely did to them what they did to me” (Judg. 15:11).

The Israelites tied him up to turn him over to the Philistines, but Scripture says that the “Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands” (Judg. 15:14). He grabbed the jawbone of a donkey and killed another 1000 Philistines (Judg. 15:16), violating the prohibition against touching anything dead (Lev. 11:39) and possibly compromising his Nazarite vow.

Did Samson learn his lesson? No way. He went to the Philistine seaport of Gaza and slept with a prostitute, again becoming a target the Philistines (Judg. 16:1-3).

Lesson learned? Surely, you say. Nope. “Sometime later” he fell in love with yet another woman – Delilah, who collaborated with the Philistines. And once again he was snared by her pleadings to learn the source of his strength. It took a while as they toyed with one another, but in the end, Samson caved to her wiles and divulged the source of his strength. He was captured, blinded, and imprisoned.

Stupid, stupid, stupid! It’s easy to criticize Samson. His weaknesses are so obvious. Maybe ours aren’t quite as glaring. Or are they? But how is it that we are so willing to test the grace of God by giving in to our individual weaknesses and expecting Him to work through us anyway? And why does God continue to honor the anointed when they (we) give in to sin? I don’t know the answer to these questions, but personally, I am committed to pursue splendor and try my best to avoid stupidity. How about you?