Intercessors AriseAs I read Debbie Przybylski’s latest book, Intercessors Arise (Navpress, 2008) my first reaction was not what I expected. A few chapters in, I was asking “Where is the fire? I’m interested in this subject. As a believer, I want a more dynamic prayer life. But this book is, well, uninteresting.” I’ve heard the anecdotal stories before, and felt I should pray more than I do. However, I already know this stuff. The book was missing the proverbial trigger. Debbie didn’t pull the trigger on how to make the reality she described a part of my life.

Debbie is the founder of Intercessors Arise International, and has spent decades on the mission field with Operation Mobilization. She’s an acclaimed writer, and mentor, teaching on the subject of prayer and intercession across the globe. So her experiences suggests that she must know about prayer. Yet I spent half the book asking where is the fire? Where di I find the kind of life she is describing?

I would like to pat myself on the back and say “And then lights went off . . . ” No, my final analysis of Debbie’s book demands that I humble myself rather than disclose some grand revelation. Debbie’s book will tell me the 5 points to a better prayer life. Intercession isn’t a spectator sport that one can learn from the bleachers of Christian life. Indepth intercession like Debbie describes doesn’t follow a formula. It is learned on one’s knees, discovered through utter dependence on God.

Intercessors Arise is a manual to be poured over slowly. I recommend taking 2 or 3 months to digest and apply the lessons. This book can be a wonderful resource for a group of friends who seek to improve their prayer lives. Intercessors Arise is not and cannot be formulaic, as are many modern Christian titles. Intercession is not a formula where I insert currency and like a gum ball machine, God turns the crank and rewards me. From her deep experience Debbie describes that intercession require a person’s commitment to their God – a broken open, unfaltering, humble-and-willing-to-wait for an answer commitment which is too often absent in today’s modern church.

My confession is that I didn’t get much from her book the first time through because I was looking for a formula. My own attitude and shallow expectations were the roadblock. Intercessors Arise is not a book. Rather it is a tried and proven field manual that encourages Christ followers to pray big, dream big, and then depend on an equally Big God. In response, God often starts by creating brokenness and dependency, a humbling process that creates intercession from self focused prayers.

I recommend this book highly, and give it 4 out of 5 stars.

A Relevant Work, Timeless Issues, Biblical Models

Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today

Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today

In her latest book, Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today, award winning author Kathi Macias demonstrates her depth as author, speaker and bible teacher. Kathi selects 15 women from the Bible, from Old and New testaments, obscure and renowned, and makes their stories come alive through practical application. The reader will find that Kathi has the special talent that makes the lives and emotions of ancient moms relevant to post-modern American culture.

Each of the 15 women who are selected as role models are made real through in-depth, inductive Bible study as well as the author’s feminine insight. Like Kathi’s other books, this work is refreshingly personal. Still Kathi finds a way to press deeper by cross referencing scripture, explaining cultural influences, and spotlighting the text’s linguistic background. She fleshes out the personal side of God’s redemptive work as illustrated through her subjects.

For example, in the first chapter, Kathi examines the maternal side of Eve, whose name means: Life Giver. According to the author, Eve must have wrestled deeply with being the “first” at many things. Without role model or mentor, she was the first to have a husband, endure and fall in temptation, lose a son to violent crime and then lose a second to the consequences of his crime. Yet, through it all, God proved faithful to her name, and promise He had given her. Eve bore another son, Seth, through whom Jesus would eventually become the redemption of all mankind, the Eternal Life Giver.

Kathi brings her readers face to face with timeless issues which impose themselves upon today’s moms. Have you ever watched a mother play favorites with her children, and the ensuing chaos within a family. Have you experienced a mom’s deep struggle with isolation, competing with others due to personal insecurity, or laying down personal desires for your children as they forge their own way in the world? Each chapter concludes with review and application questions. Information without application aborts the disciple-building process, and Kathi makes room for both in this wonderful work.

I’ve interviewed Kathi a few times, and each time I’ve come to appreciate her deep commitment to God’s word, and desire to live biblical faith in a practical way. As Christ followers, we can mistakenly assume we can have one part of this equation, the practical faith, without a commitment to real discipleship built on a foundation of God’s Word. Kathi is an example that these two elements are conjoined twins. The only way to have one is to engage the other.

I give this book 5 stars out of 5, and recommend it highly. This latest work is insightful, balanced, scripturally grounded, well researched and highly relevant.

Book Giveaway – the Latest from Andy Stanley

Check out Vessel Project Book Giveaway for a copy of Andy Stanley’s book The Principle of the Path.

Tyndale’s Every Man’s Bible: a Publication Fit for the Man-cave.

Tyndale's Every Man's BibleLet’s face it. As men, a person wanting our attention is better served talking in short sentences, bullet points, and even showing us pictures of a sporting event that illustrates a message rather than initiating a 10 minute discussion. It’s not that we’re dull, but God has wired men differently than women. We just think differently. With this caricature in mind, I’m giving five stars to Tyndale’s recently published Every Man’s Bible. Here’s why.

The Every Man’s Bible contains helps which meet the average man in the way we like to learn. Each chapter begins with an in depth outline, including headings like “The Breakdown” “Key Concepts” and “Verses Worth Memorizing.” As a guy, these headlines focus my attention, and help me dig deeper into the text that I may have read many times before. Each book’s first page contains a time line I can use to put the book in historical context. Another call-out box announces a simple declaration: “What is the Point of this Book?”

I don’t want to give the impression that Every Man’s Bible is less than scholarly. The book’s New Living Translation contains extensive footnotes, cross references, and in depth biographies of persons who are prominent and others who are, well, not so much. Each of these persons highlighted contain important lessons which apply to a man’s life. The “Persons You Should Know” segment help the reader dig deeper into the text, unearthing pearls of great price.

I could continue, describing contributions from teachers, preachers and authors from around the country, over 40 pages of topical study aides, complete indexing, and more. Rather, let me simply recommend this version of the bible for any man interested in personally moving deeper into God’s Word. The tools are excellent, and slanted to connect with men thus catalyzing His transformational process.

Be the Surprise – Who . . . Me?

be the surpriseAuthor Terry Esau creates a second refreshing look into active Christianity, and the unexpected journey it can become. Be the Surprise is his second book, following God Surprise Me (2005). Terry’s writing style seemed a bit ADD-ish at first. His book is a collection of short stories, poems, song lyrics and anecdotes supporting the title, asking God to be active and make him the surprise in other people’s lives. After digging into his personal history, I discovered that before becoming an author, Terry wrote commercial jingles. His resulting adjunct writing style doesn’t detract from the book, but rather creates a fun and unexpected delivery, like a memorable bit advertising a new soda pop.

Terry’s theme revolves around giving and receiving. As Christ followers, while we are called to give to others, it seems we easily become focused on receiving. Terry calls giving and receiving Siamese twins, co-joined at the heart. You can’t fully have one without the other. As he talks about his journey from God Surprise Me to Be the Surprise Terry also makes a comparison to the natural process of breathing. A person inhales, which is like watching God work in your life. Exhaling completes the cycle as we take what god has given us, and give of the living waters to someone else. You can’t have one without the other.

The body of the book retells examples of those who chose to be the surprise, and the lessons Terry collected along the way. Almost living parables, Be the Surprise gives the reader uncomplicated illustration of how to be the surprise and unexpectedly give of God’s life. On p.22 Terry quotes one of the people he met along his journey. A woman in a restaurant who bussed tables and washed dishes said “You can’t do good without being good. And God is the good in me.” Through another incident, he was reminded that often Christ followers try too hard to be religious, and impress or influence others. Our goal should be to become transparent, and genuine. Ultimately we are the gift, Christ living in us. We can influence the world and build His kingdom: inhaling and exhaling, giving and receiving.

Terry’s book is a wonderful example of how a Christian’s faith can influence the world, and I recommend it highly. We aren’t called to be blow torches setting the world on fire, or theatrical search lights piercing the night sky in front of some retailer’s sale of the decade. Christ followers are a light set on a table, a city on a hill by which others can find their way home.

“Confessions of an Insignificant Pastor” Book Review

Confessions of an Insignificant PastorWho sets the image of what is ‘normal’ in a Christian’s life and experience? Where does the place of transparency reside in a Christian’s life when our culture promotes accomplishment, size and performance? Pastor W. Mark Elliot, in his recent book Confessions of an Insignificant Pastor confronts the image of what too often is the ‘rugged individualist’ Christian persona. In its place, he reveals a transparent, genuine, real “pastor from nowhere, just a nobody from zip code 47492,” and he’s in good company.

I spoke with Pastor Mark. He said this book came out of a sensed call to put the message on paper. In a few days, alone on personal retreat, Mark recorded the lessons which had been birthed out of a “winter season of pastoring. It’s a negative title on a positive book.” When I asked him to identify the most important take-away, Pastor Mark replied, “Unplanned is a part of life. God call isn’t to achievement, but to faithfulness. After 28 years of ministry, my best accomplishment is that I have been faithful, I refuse to quit. I have found that God is still present in all of life’s circumstances.”

The book’s 16 chapters flesh out the image of a transparent man. Starting with “ I’m a Nobody from 47492”, to “I Work too Much” and “People Get on my Last Nerve” Pastor Mark openly shares his heart. Life is hard at times. We are all human, and walking through life as a Christian doesn’t mean the valleys will be filled in and steep hills leveled before we arrive. The climb (up or down) is taxing. Mark’s message is that our God goes with us, and we are not meant to walk alone.

The book is well researched, and Pastor Mark correlates a modern Christian’s similarity to men / women of the Bible. David was a nobody before he was king. Joseph was an arrogant teen, Jacob a manipulative entrepreneur, Moses a murderer, and the list goes on. The key, Mark writes, is that we begin to see ourselves the way God really does. We have value because we are his people, and we are meant to do life together rather than (pretending to) be a rugged individualist.

Each chapter ends with 3-5 questions meant to prompt discussion and reflection. The book, like life, is better when it’s shared. These questions flow well into discussions for small groups, and explore how we can become more genuine, authentic Christ followers.

I recommend this book highly. Too often we allow an image painted of what a Christian ‘should’ look like when the only real answer is this. A Christ follower should look like the One he or she is following. The lessons in this book will move the reader toward becoming genuine, transparent, authentic and real in their faith. There is a risk involved in this kind of lifestyle, but the alternative is to exist without really living.

by: Timothy Burns

How Can I Run a Tight Ship Book Review

tight shipReleased early 2009 by New Hope Publishers, Kathi Macias’ How Can I Run a Tight Ship when I am Surrounded by Loose Cannons? is a light hearted look at discipleship from an experienced Christian writer. During our interview, Kathi described the book as “discipleship with a grin.” As I easily consumed the book’s message, I would have to agree. Like Mary Poppins’ spoonful of sugar, the sometimes thick discipleship message is a joyful read in this book.

Kathi said her inspiration for the book was a conversation with a trusted friend. “How can I run a tight ship when I am surrounded by all these loose cannons?” quipped Kathi. She told me she immediately paused. “That’s too good of title to not have a book attached to it,” and the merry title gave birth to an equally playful book.

Kathi builds the book on a metaphor which follows a person’s growth. First we crawl, then walk, and run. Hopefully as a Christian eventually we learn to fly as with wings of eagles (Isaiah 40.31). After these experiences we often learn that the most important place for a Christians is on our knees, back on our knees, in the same position we began our journey.

The book is woven with stories of women who influenced Kathi’s life from that of a young Christian to a mature believer. After coming full circle, Kathi realized that quite often she was the loose cannon. She needed to trust her Father more. By following the example of other, equally loose cannons around her, she found balance. These women helped here see that having the details of life lashed to the deck isn’t always God’s plan. He works through imperfect people who have learned to rely on Him in their weakness. A hard lesson for a person with a High D, Type A, Choleric personality like Kathi.

Overall, I recommend this book highly. We need to laugh at ourselves as we apply the lessons of discipleship. Kathi has woven together anecdotes and vignettes from her life which lead to laughter with a purpose. As proverbs says, a merry heart does good, like a medicine. (Prov 17.22)