Book Review: “Fields of Gold” by Andy Stanley

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Fields of Gold by Andy Stanley is a small book, but it’s a great book on learning to view “our” financial resources as being God’s and an opportunity to invest in what He is doing in our world.

The book is based on an illustration of a farmer seeding fields of wheat. One of the main themes running through the book is that the reason we often don’t allow God to be in control of our finances is not because we are greedy, but rather because we are afraid. We’re afraid of not having enough if something ever happened. We’re afraid to allow God to be the supplier of our needs and so we depend on ourselves to be our own provider. Unfortunately this fear leads us to not experiencing the blessings of God personally, and we even miss out on being used by God to be a blessing to others.

Stanley does a great job using scripture throughout and reinforcing the truth that all we have, all belongs to Him. We are simply managers of what is His. Near the end of the book he unpacks various forms of giving, including: priority giving (giving to God comes first when we receive our paycheck), percentage giving (determining a percentage to give to God every paycheck), and progressive giving (growing that percentage over your lifetime).

Overall Fields of Gold is an outstanding introduction to the subject of tithes and offering (giving / generosity). This is a great resource for teaching on giving, and would be perfect for those who are new to following Jesus and doing life together with other Christians.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • “When you became a Christian, you signed up for a completely different economic system.” (p. 31)
  • “…doesn’t that make it irrational to trust God for your eternal destiny, yet decline His invitation to direct your finances?” (p. 34)
  • “…giving to God’s work is not giving something away. It’s an investment, not a loss. The farmer who sows doesn’t lose seed. He gains a crop.” (p. 51)
  • “When you begin to embrace your role as a steward, you will be able to give from your heart. You’ll see yourself in partnership with God to accomplish eternal purposes…” (p. 83).

Book Review: “Shaq Uncut” by Shaquille O’Neal

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You can’t have a conversation about the most dominant players to ever play the game of basketball without talking about Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq was one of the most exciting players to watch during his career and might be the most charismatic player (on and off the court) to ever play in the NBA.

Shaq Uncut was released shortly after he retired from professional basketball and is a very personal retrospective on his life and career.

The book begins with Shaq describing his humble beginnings and his introduction to the game. One of the things that sticks out throughout the entire book is the relationship between Shaq and his father Philip Harrison. Many times while reading the book, his father comes across as being very abusive both physically and verbally, but to this day you can see the deep love, respect, and gratitude Shaq has towards his father and the impact he has made in his life. Definitely this was and is a very unique, but crucial relationship in Shaq’s life.

One of the major highlights of the book for me, is reading about the “behind the scenes” of the NBA. It’s always fascinating to see the league, teams, players, and coaches you’ve watched your whole life, from an insiders perspective. Learning about Shaq’s growth at LSU and his coming into the NBA, to his high’s and lows with the Orlando Magic was a great look at what shaped the career that would follow.

As expected, reading about his time with the Los Angeles Lakes was full of drama between winning three championships and his relationship with Kobe. I found reading about Shaq’s time with the Miami Heat to be very eye opening. Although he won another ring there, I had no idea about the struggles between he and the legendary coach Pat Riley. Walking through his time with the Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Boston Celtics was both a satisfying and a sad journey as you see such a passionate and important player come to the end of his career. By the end of the book you can sense Shaq’s sorrow to say goodbye to the game, especially with not winning another ring, but at the same time you know that he is far from finished living a very full and successful life.

Reading Shaq Uncut is like sitting back and listening to Shaq tell random stories about his life, aspirations, passions, friends, family, and career. For fans of Shaq and the NBA, this is a great book.

Book Review: “I Like Giving” by Brad Formsma

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The book I Like Giving (releasing on Feb. 18/14) is written by Brad Formsma, the creator of ilikegiving.com.

I Like Giving is a very personal and human look at generosity. The book is made up of numerous stories from people who stepped out to participate in various compassionate and creative acts of generosity. What I appreciate about this look at generosity is that it isn’t solely focused on financial generosity. The sky is the limit on how we can be generous and give in powerful ways to those around us. 

Although the book talks at length about the beauty of giving, it doesn’t romanticize it, and instead honestly addresses the challenges that can accompany giving. Sometimes being generous is awkward and sometimes people will reject our generosity, but that shouldn’t stop us from being generous people. Another aspect of giving that the book does a great job at unpacking is being good at receiving. Often times we are great at giving but we are poor at being the recipient of someone else’s generosity. This was a great reminder about allowing others to receive the blessing of giving by being good at receiving.

On top of the great content in the book, it is also a very attractive book and is laid out in a really interesting way.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

  • “When we choose to give, we change, and the people around us change. When we move from awareness to action, miracles happen” (p. 6).
  • “Sometimes we need to give more than other people need to receive” (p. 50).
  • “…my compassion can’t be directed by other people’s decisions” (p. 88).
  • “…the lines between giving and receiving disappear. You might see yourself as a giver in one situation but realize that the blessing you receive from giving is so great that you are really the receiver” (p. 172-173).

I would definitely recommend this book as a practical and inspirational look at generosity.

Check out ilikegiving.com for more information, short films, stories and more. You can also follow this movement on Facebook and on Twitter (@ilikegiving). Click HERE to read the first chapter of this book for free.

Below is a trailer for the book I Like Giving.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Book Review: “24/6” by Matthew Sleeth, MD

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24/6: A prescription for a healthier, happier life is written by Matthew Sleeth, MD, and is a look at the subject of sabbath. Dr. Sleeth’s first book is called Serve God, Save the Planet, and he is the founder of the creation care non-profit ‘Blessed Earth’.

Sleeth writes in a very folksy tone and comes across as maybe the nicest guy in the world. 24/6 is a very easy read and accessible to everyone. Sleeth’s storytelling is relevant and engaging, pulling a lot from his background as a doctor, and his heart for God and enjoying Him comes shining through on every page. Sleeth calls his readers to come back to the sabbath to find rest in our crazy fast paced lives, and more importantly to find God.

In my opinion, 24/6 is a good basic primer on the idea of sabbath for someone who maybe has never given the subject much thought. I wouldn’t categorize this book as theological heavy lifting or an in-depth look at the history of sabbath, but again a good modern day primer on the subject.

The book closes with a few great appendices, including: scripture concerning the sabbath, quotes about the sabbath, and various blessings. Also available is a small group study & dvd that is based on the book. I have previewed both the study guide and dvd and they are very well put together and filmed beautifully. 

Overall I would recommend 24/6 as a good entry point for starting a conversation on the subject of sabbath, and the additional study materials are also excellent.

Book Review: “Crash the Chatterbox” by Steven Furtick

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Although he has released two books prior to this one, this is my first time reading a book by author Steven Furtick, who is also the founder and lead pastor of Elevation Church, based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Furtick’s newest book Crash the Chatterbox (releasing on Feb. 11, 2014), is about navigating all the different voices that come at us on a daily basis to determine which ones are truth (God’s voice), and which ones are based on lies and half truths that bring only discouragement and disappointment. The “chatterbox” is defined as “…the lies we believe that keep us from accurately and actively hearing God’s voice” (p. 8).

The book is divided into four sections: God Says I Am, God Says He Will, God Says He Has, and God Says I Can.

Each and everyday we need to decide what dialogue we are going to listen to, ruminate on, and respond to. What dialogue we choose to invest ourselves in will shape how we experience life and our relationship with God. I was challenged immediately from the very beginning of the book when Furtick asked a few reflection questions concerning the voices we listen to and the impact it has not only on ourselves, but the very plans God has for us.

  • Q. At this point in your life, what great deeds are in danger of remaining undone because of lies that were planted into your past or fears that are looming in your future?
  • Q. Is there a throb or an ache because of a sense of purpose in your heart that remains unfulfilled? What weeds are growing in the cracks of some of the God-inspired ideas you’ve abandoned?
  • Q. How many contributions that God created you to make for His glory are still wrapped in good intentions because they’ve been neutralized by spiritual hesitation? (p. 10)

Although the “chatterbox” will be a life long reality, it doesn’t have to be a debilitating presence in our lives. Through holding onto God’s truths and promises found in scripture and daily choosing to live a life of gratitude, the “chatterbox” doesn’t have to have a dominating power over us.

Crash the Chatterbox is a very accessible book, easy and engaging to read, and it closes with a discussion guide that could be used for both personal and small group study.

Overall I found Furtick’s newest book to be both encouraging and inspiring. It’s so easy to spend time focused on and discouraged by lies others tells us or even lies we tell ourselves. Crash the Chatterbox was a great reminder to examine what voices I am listening to, ruminating on, and responding to, to refocus on God truths, and to not miss out on the plans God has for my life.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

  • “The voice you believe will determine the future you experience” (p. 17).
  • “…God’s Word cannot adequately sustain you – no matter how prevalent it is around you – until you receive it within you” (p. 101).
  • “…spiritual progress is usually not about something we need to learn. It’s about something we need to remember” (p. 141).

For more information on the author, check out his website at www.stevenfurtick.com or follow him on Twitter @stevenfurtick. For information on Elevation Church and their multiple campuses, you can visit their website at www.elevationchurch.org.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Book Review: “The Adam Quest” by Tim Stafford

the adam quest

I almost never read books on the subject of human origins as I find they can be unnecessarily divisive, overly defensive, and even demeaning to those who don’t happen to share the same viewpoint. Thankfully this book was none of those things.

In his book The Adam Quest, author Tim Stafford tells the stories of eleven scientists, from all different cultural, scientific, and religious backgrounds, who have worked through the task of reconciling their science and their faith.

I found this book to be fascinating and I couldn’t put it down. To read about so many accomplished scientists who don’t see the need to have to choose between faith and science was incredibly encouraging. That said, these scientists do not all agree on the science part of the equation. The book is divided into three different views on creation:

  • Young Earth Creationists
  • Intelligent Design Creationists
  • Evolutionary Creationists

Although at the end of the book the author shares where he lands personally, no individual perspective was given more weight than another and there is an overall tone of humility from those whose stories are told. Regardless of where you land on where life came from scientifically, there is still plenty of room for faith.

What was so great about this book was the high value placed on science. It is an act of ignorance to throw out good science. It’s sad that so many in the Church are afraid of and feel threatened by science as though it isn’t compatible with faith in God. This book clearly shows that these two pursuits of truth do not have to exist separately.

This book is a great read for anyone, regardless of scientific or religious background. The Adam Quest is a very interesting and accessible read and I would highly recommend this book.

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes:

“If we dig a wide ditch between the world of faith and the world of science, we will find ourselves much the poorer for it” (p. 06).

“[Religion & science] They are both attempts to get at the truth of the world. They do so in different ways, and they may discover different aspects of the truth, but in the final analysis they must come together” (p. 191).

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Book Review: “David and Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell

David and Goliath

I am a huge fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s work (The Tipping Point, Blink , Outliers) and his most recent book, David and Goliath, doesn’t disappoint.

Are the things we view as benefits and advantages in life, really benefits and advantages? Can disadvantages actually be advantages?

Starting with the biblical story of David and Goliath, Gladwell describes certain situations in life that we would naturally understand as an advantage, and then turns it on its head. He looks at subjects like dyslexia, crime, and picking the right college, to unpack the idea that sometimes we misunderstand what we label a “disadvantage”. Sometimes the very things that make sense and will “clearly” lead to a benefit or advantage, can actually be a disadvantage and even disastrous.

Like always Gladwell does a fantastic job in sparking conversation, asking great questions (which often lead to more questions), and casting a new vision for how to see life around us. David and Goliath is a very interesting book and an excellent addition to the growing collection of Gladwell’s work.

* You can hear an interesting TED Talk from Gladwell speaking on a perspective of the biblical story of David and Goliath which happens to be the premise of his book (video can be seen HERE). 

* For an interesting article about Gladwell and the impact writing this book had on his faith, check out Relevant Magazine’s most recent cover story HERE

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