Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Branded" by Tim Sinclair

According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, the church spends $1,551,466 for each new follower of Jesus. With that kind of statistic it would seem that the church's outreach efforts aren't the most effective. What is the church doing wrong, and what would be a better way to share our faith?

In Branded, Christian radio personality Tim Sinclair explores the ways in which the church has been essentially "mass-marketing" Jesus in the last few decades and how in many cases, it has failed to excite newcomers to the church and faith. Using examples of successful businesses, Sinclair looks at the consumer culture of today and posits that if we were to stop turning Jesus into a brand and instead market our faith relationally, person to person, honestly and authentically, that we would be more successful in our outreach efforts.

Branded is a fantastic book. What I enjoyed most about the book was how well-researched it is, how Sinclair really understands his audience and today's culture and link them together with the church, a link that is often missing. Sinclair is the perfect person to write this book, as a marketer he has helped to brand many companies.

This book isn't a call to "brand" Jesus, rather it points out that many of our outreach efforts have already done this, but in a manner that isn't working. If we are going to market Jesus, then Sinclair says we need to do it in a different manner.

Sinclair includes a chapter in the book with ways to re-market Jesus. A word of warning, this chapter will be convicting and for many it may feel like an attack on their church's current practices. However, that is not the intent of the chapter and Sinclair doesn't expect every church to follow all of his suggestions. Rather, he is challenging you to take a look at what you and your church are currently doing, decide if it has been effective and decide if maybe there is a better way for you. The inclusion of discussion questions make this book a great resources for churches and small groups.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It is well-written, clear and concise. It doesn't hit you over the head with statistics or boring business principles. It presents a great message that gets right to the point. I think this is a book that all churches should, not because I think that all churches are failing at outreach, but because I think it will challenge churches to look at their methods and in the end become more effective at sharing Jesus with others.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

"While the World Watched" by Carolyn Maull McKinstry

On September 15, 1963 a bomb planted by the Ku Klux Klan at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama exploded, killing four young girls. Only minutes earlier 15 year old Carolyn Maull had said spoken to those four girls and then walked away. For decades, Carolyn tried to put that day and the troubling days that followed behind her. But she no longer feels that she can stay silent about the tragedy and injustice she witnessed as a young girl growing up in the civil rights era.

While The World Watched is Carolyn Maull McKinstry's eye-witness account of what life was like for Black residents of Birmingham, Alabama when Jim Crow laws ruled the South. It is a moving description of how far Americans have come in terms of race relations, and how far they still need to go.

This is an incredible book that brings to life the civil rights movement of 1960's America. This book has a unique place in the writings of civil rights history as it comes straight from a young Black girl who was witness to one of its most tragic events. Carolyn Maull McKinstry has battled the prevailing notions of her day head on, struggled with its aftermath and emerged as a strong voice for those who fought and still fight for equality for all Americans.

Throughout the book, Maull McKinstry has included excerpts from famous speeches of the day in addition to her own words. She provides historical detail to compliment her own story, giving the book a wide scope on the civil rights movement.

This is a subject that I took great interest in while studying history in school and this book is a welcome addition to that information. It is incredible to read the story of a woman who was front and centre for a major moment in history. By reading her thoughts, concerns and triumphs, I believe the reader will be deeply touched and moved by the struggle that many lived through to bring us the world we live in today.

In addition to the historical information, this book is a touching journey of forgiveness. Carolyn Maull McKinstry shares her deepest feelings about the difficulty of forgiving those who have wronged you, especially in such heinous ways, but how doing so is what will ultimately free you.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Choosing To SEE" by Mary Beth Chapman

Mary Beth Chapman was living a life she had never planned for. Instead of the peaceful and stable life she had always dreamed of, she was living a pretty hectic one. With her husband, an award-winning singer/songwriter, she had a full house with three biological children and three children adopted from China, as well as a nonprofit organization to run.

But on May 21, 2008 their world was changed forever. One of their young daughters was hit by a car, driven by their 17-year-old son, in the driveway of their home. In the months that followed, Mary Beth struggled with understanding God's plan for her life and why their beautiful, full of life girl was taken from them.

In Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope Mary Beth Chapman shares the story of her life and her struggle to find a new normal following the death of her daughter. This is an open and honest book that is full of laughter, sadness, faithfulness and the promises of God.

Mary Beth's story is an inspiring and comforting one. She shares their adoption journey and how they brought home three young children from China and found homes for many, many more. She also shares how no matter how hard she tried to plan and control her life she ultimately had to give that up to God and allow Him direct her life.

Most importantly Mary Beth bravely shares the emotions and pain surrounding the loss of her daughter. She is honest in sharing how even famous Christian singers and speakers question God in the difficult times. Mary Beth invites the readers into the depths of her emotions to give them an understanding of how her family has journeyed through their pain.

A very touching part of the book is the honesty she shares in how her son felt following the accident and how he dealt with a pain that was different from the rest of the family's. The strength that they all found in God is incredibly inspiring. Anyone who is going through a difficult time will find comfort and solace in this book.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"Samson" by Jacquelin Thomas

Samson Taylor is the new assistant pastor of a thriving church. But while he is following his calling he still struggles with a terrible sin - his uncontrollable lust for beautiful women.

Even though he recognizes the conflict between his personal life and his job, Samson cannot fight off his sin. It isn't long before his lust causes him to lose his marriage, best friend, child and job. But even that isn't enough to make him change his ways.

When Samson meets Delinda, the wife of a famous NBA star, he falls head over heels in love and quickly begins an affair. Even though Delinda warns him of her husband's temper and the dangers of their affair, he refuses to stop. When he finds himself involved in a violent confrontation with the man, Samson loses one of the things most precious to him.

Now Samson must rebuild his life. But will he be able to turn back to God and get his life back to what it was supposed to be or will he let bitterness and regret take over his life?

Samson is a modern day retelling of Samson and Delilah. Jacquelin Thomas is a master of taking Biblical stories and putting modern twists on them to show that the lessons given then still apply to our lives today.

This was a good story but I found that there was a lot to it and in an attempt to include it all the story moved rather fast without developing some parts to their full potential. However, Thomas does do a good job of balancing the story with the right amount of Biblical teaching.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Book Blogger Hop!

It's Friday and time for the Book Blogger Hop. It is a weekly meme hosted by Jennifer at Crazy For Books, though this week it is hosted by Lori at Lori's Reading Corner.

This is my first time participating in the hop here at Faith Filled Reading. For those who are hopping by I hope you enjoy my new blog and take the time to look around and find some great Christian reads.

This weeks question is: Who is the one author you are dying to meet?
My answer:
ReShonda Tate Billingsley
I am a huge fan of Urban Christian fiction and I think ReShonda is one of the best! She is one of the first authors I discovered and once I read one of her books I searched out the rest. So far I have read Holy Rollers, Let The Church Say Amen, Everybody Say Amen, I Know I've Been Changed, and The Pastor's Wife. I would love to discuss how she comes up with her characters and storylines and find out what I can about the upcoming movie version of Let The Church Say Amen.

What author are you dying to meet?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

"Man Enough For Me" by Rhonda Bowen

Jules Jackson is leading a hectic life, but she's got it all under control. She's holding down two busy public relations jobs, a group of crazy but loyal friends, and a very difficult mother. It's little wonder she doesn't need to be dealing with the stress a man in her life could bring.

Then Germaine Williams walks into her life and turns it upside down. He owns his own business, goes to church, and is extremely handsome. Of course Jules falls for him hard.

But Jules soon learns that not everything is as it seems and Germaine is keeping a very big secret from her. One that is too big for Jules to look the other way. Will she run from her feelings and go back to handling things for herself? Or will she finally learn to trust God and let His will be done in her life?

Man Enough For Me is Rhonda Bowen's debut novel and I have to say straight away that I can't believe this is her first novel. It has the polish, the sizzle, and the faith that you find in the writings of seasoned and well-established Urban Christian authors.

The book moves along at just the right pace and doesn't let you put it down. The characters are real and relatable. From the moment you start reading you feel as though you have known all of the characters for years. And I personally love the way my beautiful city of Toronto was represented in the book.

Man Enough For Me also has the right amount of faith. It doesn't get in your face but it does speak to you. The lessons that Ms. Bowen has included in her book about trust and endurance in God will hit home and have you reflecting on your own life.

I cannot wait to see what else Ms. Bowen has to offer. With Man Enough For Me she has established herself in the Christian Fiction world. If you're looking for romance and drama tied together with faith you will find everything you are looking for, and more, right here in this book.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

"Beautiful Things Happen When a Woman Trusts God" by Sheila Walsh

Drawing on her own experience of battling depression and dealing with life once it has come crashing down, Sheila Walsh aims to show women that when we trust in God, our circumstances can change in amazing ways. Using ten people from the Bible who have been transformed through trusting God, she shows that no matter what the situation, God is always asking us to just follow Him.

Sheila is very honest and transparent in recounting her struggles with putting her complete trust in God. The individual chapters looking at a different person are great character studies and can definitely be inspiring to those who are at a difficult point in their lives and need a reminder why it is important to trust God.

Unfortunately, I had difficulty reading through the book as a whole. When I began to treat it as character studies and focus on a different chapter/person each day, I had much more success in understanding how these stories were important for my own relationship with God.

I would recommend this book for people who are having difficulty trusting in God through the situation they are in. There is definite inspiration in this book and many reminders that when we trust God, He will take care of us.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

"Words" by Ginny Yttrup

Kaylee Wren is ten-years-old and she doesn't speak. She used to, but when her drug-addicted mother left in a remote cabin in the care of a man who was sexually abusing her, Kaylee stopped talking. Instead, she collects words she reads in the dictionary in a mental lockbox, her only refuge from the hurt of her life.

Sierra Dawn is thirty-four years old and finally coming to terms with the death of her daughter twelve years ago, something that was caused by Sierra's mistakes. For twelve years she buried the pain inside of her and in her artwork.

Then one day, Sierra and Kaylee meet, in a way that can only be described as Divine design. The two set out on a journey together to heal from the pain and quickly learn that the only way to do so is to allow themselves to be open to the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ.

Words by Ginny Yttrup is an incredible novel about healing, redemption and the grace of God. This is a moving story, one that is tough to read but also brings warmth and inspiration to the reader. As you read this book you can't help but marvel and give praise for the powers of His grace.

The book alternates between Kaylee and Sierra's point of view in very short chapters, each only a few pages long. I appreciated this aspect of the book, it kept the story flowing, added some suspense and helped you become attached and drawn into the stories of both characters. There are a few chapters from a third person point of view about Kaylee's mom and these chapters kind of threw me, they didn't seem to fit, but there are only a few and they don't break up the story too much.

I highly recommend this book. This is one of the best Christian fiction books I have read. It deals with very tough subject matter, but Yttrup is herself a survivor of sexual abuse and she is bringing to light a subject that is often swept under the rug and the book proves that when you give your hurt and pain up to Jesus Christ, your life will be healed.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

"Bringing Up Girls" by Dr. James Dobson

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one concerned about raising my daughter to be a healthy confident woman in this crazy, hyper-sexualized society. Our culture just isn't making it easy for our children and as parents we can go out of our minds trying to get things right.

In his book Bringing Up Girls: Practical Advice and Encouragement for those Shaping the Next Generation of Women, Dr. James Dobson gives you the advice, tools and knowledge you need to raise secure, godly girls. It is a solid, Biblical guide to raising your female children.

Dobson begins with looking at the physical and physiological differences between boys and girls, showing that they are wired different and thus we must parent them differently. Once he has established the differences, which he does well with thorough research, he goes into the different pressures that girls face and ways for us as parents to provide them with the support they need to grow. He addresses topics such as the importance of fathers, education, bullying, and many more.

One of my favourite chapters of the books is where Dobson provides the transcript of a discussion he had with many young women at the Focus on the Family Institute. These young women were so open and honest about the role of their fathers in their lives and how things their fathers said, even in passing or in jest, affected them and their self-esteem for years to come. This chapter was eye-opening.

Anyone raising a girl should read this book. Even if you're not looking for advice or help this book is useful in understanding the world we live in and how it is affecting young girls. We must remember that our daughters may not be telling us everything that is going on in their lives but we still need to understand the pressures they are facing. I also highly recommend this book for fathers of girls. There is so much in this book that I'm sure you did not know and this book will re-enforce or open your eyes to the powerful role you play in their lives.