Book Review: “To The Wall” by Mark van Straaten

July 25, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Book Reviews, Old Testament 

To The Wall: A Journey In Missional Prayer by Mark van Straaten

Not Religious, Not Ceremonial
But Prayer In Action

Mark van Straaten, the author of To The Wall, is a friend of mine. Our paths crossed a few years back at a pivotal point in my spiritual journey. I had finally caught on to the fact that God wasn’t restricted to using only Baptists and some of His “other” servants could be quite effective and very decent people. The story of how I got to that transformation is too long to tell here, and really isn’t the point, but my next step following that realization was to venture out and make contact.

At the time, Mark happened to be one of the more prominent non-Baptist pastors in my area so I decided to ask him to join me for a cup of coffee. He agreed and for me it was a friendship from the start. His ministry was thriving when we first met and it’s still going strong today.

Since Mark is a friend, and someone I respect a lot, you might wonder how I could possibly be objective in a review of any book he writes. Well, it’s easy. Let me explain before I get to the book.

Over the years I’ve sat in many pastors’ meetings with Mark, and without fail, when discussions gravitated to topics more easily confused than explained, Mark demonstrated the uncanny ability, not to make a point or even make a good point but to put his finger on the one point that clarified the issue. He didn’t necessarily answer the question or solve the problem, he just put things in perspective. That’s useful since it is very difficult to do anything constructive with confusion.

Therefore, when I heard Mark had written a book, I wanted a copy. I knew he would make a point worth reading.

Now the book. Read more

Earn The Right To Win, Chapter 3 – Details

September 21, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Book Reviews, Evangelism, Sport 

Preparation Is Key
In Every Detail


Tom Coughlin is the kind of guy that intrigues everyone. He seems a bit brash on the outside but his ability to win football games at every level consistently over a lengthy career, even the biggest game of all – not once but twice – proves he is more than just noise and bluster.

His second book, Earn the Right to Win, reveals just how deeply the stream runs below his turbulent exterior.

And in chapter 3, Success Is In The Details, you get a glimpse of how information rich football is and how cerebral Tom is in mastering the game. Winning at football means processing endless details.

Tom, of course, isn’t focused only on football. His point in the book is that there is a correlation between the effort to win at football and what it takes to win in the rest of life.

Success, Tom says, begins with superior preparation and as Christians we must believe that what is good for football success is also good Gospel success.

Football Is Complex

To appreciate the meaning of Tom’s point we need to first take a look at the complexities of football.

Football has one objective, score more points than the opponent, which seems quite simple until you look at the process. Football is no simple game and the proof is the many people who watch even several games and say, “I don’t understand.”

The reality is, very few people completely grasp everything that it takes to run even one play successfully much less win the game. It really is that complex!

Let me illustrate. Read more

Rob Bell: What We Talk About When We Talk About God

April 18, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Book Reviews, Philosophy, Salvation 

God Is “Fundamentally
Beyond Words, Phrases And Forms”


In What We Talk About When We Talk About God, Rob Bell intrigues us with a perspective that seems to flaunt both religious and scientific tradition. Not just religion and not just science but both. Not the basics of either system, not the validity of either and certainly not God.

Tradition he implies, is restrictive whether it be science or religion. Both run on well worn conversational tracks that leave huge gaps in the dialogue and Tradition’s natural tendency is to ignore the questions glaring out through those gaps.

For example, Rob mentions several scientific observations that contradict established theory and makes one wonder just how precisely nature can really be defined.

  • Time is relative. It’s consistency is a persistent illusion.
  • Every nine years our bodies are renewed – the material our bodies are made of literally becoming the substance of other bodies and things – but in spite of that you still remain you.
  • He quotes Jeffrey Kluger who says scientists are now “grappling with something bigger than mere physics, something that defies the mathematical and brushes up – at least fleetingly – against the spiritual.”

Rob also points out a few religious ideas that don’t add up.

  • The statements religious people make that imply God is somewhere else, rather than everywhere, and shows up on the odd occasion to do some particular person a favor.
  • The modern religious idea that leads one to think that “spiritual” describes only non-material, non-tangible objects. It only applies to things not in this world.
  • The tendency for religious people to oppose peace, causing trouble in the process.

Both sides say and do things that don’t make sense.

But to be clear, Rob isn’t vying with tradition, he’s just trying to fill the gaps.

And again, like his other books, particularly Love Wins, he makes us think.

Be warned though. Rob isn’t trying to prove anything absolutely or make you agree with him. In fact, his ideas, though clearly illustrated, point more to the inability of humans to box truth in. Truth, like God, may be immutable but our ability to know it all, understand it accurately and articulate it exactly is in question. Read more

Book Review: Naked Divorce For Women

February 7, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Book Reviews, Divorce, Personal Development 

Life After Divorce
Is Possible


Naked Divorce for Women won’t help you avoid a divorce or provide legal advice for getting one but it will help you get over one. In a word this book is about recovery.

The title is telling. Divorce is stressful not only because it is hurtful, inconvenient and demoralizing, but also because it leaves one feeling exposed and exposure is the particular sensation that Adele illustrates well throughout her book. She bravely bares all in an attempt to help others navigate the climb from the chaos of divorce to the order of recovery. Her writing isn’t coldly clinical. It is personal.

But don’t get the wrong idea. This book, though it targets the pain, doesn’t encourage anyone to live in it. Instead, Adele highlights individual responsibility before and after the divorce: responsibility, that is, for the failed marriage and the recovered life. Self-pity, bitterness and revenge are understood but not encouraged or entertained.

Though Adele writes from a woman’s perspective and for women going through divorce, the principles she lays out are drawn from her background in change management and are good for managing any kind of transition. They can apply to both genders too.

She writes broadly covering many related issues: hormones, friends, family, work relations and more but at the core of the book is a 21 day program for recovery which emphasizes diet, physical exercise and the importance of maintaining a balanced routine, among other things. But don’t worry. She doesn’t take an extreme approach to dietary regulations. You only need “limit” coffee and chocolate, not eliminate them.

Adele’s program brings immediate relief but it isn’t a quick-fix or a laid-back approach. The 21 day program involves a commitment of 90 to 120 minutes each day during the week and a bit more time on the weekend. The program is described as a cocooning process that enables transformation from a troubled, out of control state to a more settled and focused you.

21 days may seem like a long time but as Adele points out, compared to the scope of an entire life, 21 days is only a small part. Read more

Book Release: In Defense Of Divorce

January 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Book Reviews, Divorce, Family 

In Defense of Divorce

Why A Marriage
Should Never Be Saved
At The Expense
Of A Life

New book, In Defense of Divorce, defends divorce from traditional religious ideas, extenuating the guilt and reserving emotional energy for solving practical issues going forward.

The book explores such questions as:

  • Is divorce a sin or a solution?
  • Has religion over influenced public opinion on marriage, divorce and remarriage?
  • Did the Old Testament allow divorce?
  • What did Jesus teach about divorce in Matthew chapter five?
  • Does God really hate divorce?
  • How did Paul judge divorce matters?

And more.

Ennis Pepper, the author, experienced divorce first as a teenager when his parents broke up and later through other family members and friends. As a minister he witnessed the haranguing troubled couples experience when considering divorce and the rejection should they get one. And with a Bachelor of Biblical Studies degree and more than 25 years ministry experience he is able to address this topic confidently with both a biblical and practical perspective.

Get a Kindle Reading App for any device (PC, Mac, Smartphones, Tablets) here


Most people think of divorce as something to shun, not defend, so Ennis’ book title raises questions at the start. And since the divorce rate is reaching all time highs there is no indication that the general population lacks the courage to initiate a divorce so why bother defending the issue? Read more

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Tim Pepper: Beautiful Frustration

Tim Pepper - Beautiful Frustration

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