Sunday, April 29, 2012

Chosen Book Review: Spirit Wars by Kris Vallotton

Kris Vallotton is the senior associate leader at Bethel Church in Redding, California, where he has served with Bill Johnson for three decades. He has written several books, including the bestselling The Supernatural Ways of Royalty and Heavy Rain. His prophetic insight and humorous delivery make him a much-sought-after international conference speaker, and his personal testimony of deliverance from fear and torment brings hope and freedom to thousands. Kris is also the cofounder and senior overseer of the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, which has grown to more than 1,300 full-time students, as well as the founder of Moral Revolution, an organization dedicated to cultural transformation. He has appeared on numerous media outlets, including The 700 Club. Kris and his wife, Kathy, live in Redding, California.

Paperback: 208 pages 
Publisher: Chosen Books (January 1, 2012) 
Language: English 
ISBN-10: 0800794931 
ISBN-13: 978-0800794934
Price: $12.99
Purchase: Amazon / Christian Book

Description:

Just as enemies fought Joshua in the Promised Land, and Nehemiah faced opposition as he rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, our enemy will fight us as we approach the spiritual terrain God has promised us. Most Christians retreat at the first sign of conflict because they fail to recognize the true nature of the battle. But you can prevail in freedom and joy.

Sharing his deeply personal story of demonic bondage, torment and ultimate deliverance, pastor and bestselling author Kris Vallotton turns the idea of spiritual warfare as we know it on its head. He reveals the diabolical lies and strategies of the enemy--attacks and traps so subtle and deceptive that we may find our souls and hearts imprisoned without even knowing it.

No more! Now you can win the invisible battle against sin and the enemy. Victory is within your grasp. Will you take hold?

Review:

Spirit Wars is an interesting book to say the least.  I was definitely intrigued by Kris Vallotton's personal testimony and experience with spiritual warfare.  I have read many books on this topic and I have to say that this was a very different and unique book on the subject.  

Kris Vallotton writes with honesty as he conveys his personal and spiritual experiences.  The first chapter deals with the premise by which he wrote this book.  His goal is for people to be set free from demonic strongholds.  I also found it to be somewhat of a self help book.  He discusses ways in which people can fall prey to depression and the importance of taking care of oneself.  I found his views to be sound as he wasn't propagating that people should not take medicine if they suffer from depression.   

Spirit Wars offered good advice in some regards.  However, the following are concepts I had trouble with. 
"We are no longer sinners. But we do have a devious, evil enemy who is a sinner." (Page 43)
"What I am saying is that we do not naturally sin because we no longer have a sin nature that is married to the Law." (Page 43)
"A deceptive theology keeps circulating through the Church--a doctrine that basically says it is still our nature to sin after we have been born again.  I am convinced this is a doctrine of demons." (Page 44)
"In fact, I have gone several weeks in a row without sinning." (Page 45)
I am sure there are some who agree with Kris Vallotton's position, however, I'm not one of them.  Truthfully, I had a lot of trouble with the above and also that he calls himself as a prophet.  He may very well be, as I am no one to judge.  However, I personally don't subscribe to titles or positions in the Church.

Overall, I thought Spirit Wars was an interesting and somewhat informative book.  However, I would have personally liked to have seen more scriptural references pertaining to his experiences.  I'm wary of ingesting information of this nature at hearsay.  I believe one has to discern truth from falsehood by the Word of God which alleviates confusion and deception.

In conclusion, I would like to thank Mr. Hart of Baker Publishing Group for sending me a complimentary copy of this book to review.

New Growth Press Book Review: Loving Well by William P. Smith

William P. Smith, M.Div., Ph.D., is a pastor and director of the community counseling center at Chelten Baptist Church, Dresher, PA. He has authored the book Caught Off Guard: Encounters with the Unexpected God and numerous minibooks including How Do I Stop Losing It with My Children? and How to Love Difficult People. Bill is regularly invited to speak at other churches and lead weekend retreats. He and his wife Sally are the parents of three very active children. For more information, go to www.surprisedbygod.com. 


Loving Well: Even If You Haven’t Been
By William P. Smith
Releases February 1, 2012     $15.99
ISBN 13: 978-1-936768-29-5
ISBN 10:  1-936768-29-1
RELIGION / Christian Life / Relationships
Purchase Book at:  New Growth Press / Amazon / Christian Book
 
Description
_____________________________________________________________________
 
Trade in Your Bad Relationship Habits for Something Better

Distance. Resentment. Avoidance. You want to love your family, neighbors, and coworkers. But all too often something goes wrong, and you find yourself tearing down the relationships you wanted to build. Are you doomed to keep repeating the same relationship mistakes? William P. Smith explains that destructive relationship patterns no longer need to control you. Experiencing God's love will change you, so you can trade your bad relationship habits for real love. 
 
Review
_____________________________________________________________________
 
When I read the description above, I knew I had to read this book.  I must admit I had a difficult time reading Loving Well because it convicted me to the core. I have never read such an excellent book on the topic of loving others like this one. I found myself reading a sentence and then stopping to think about it.  This book is full of scriptural content and wisdom. There is no fluff, only truth.

After reading this book, I realized I have not been loving others well at all.  I've been a Christian for many years and yet, I have failed at loving well.  This thoughtful book helped me to recognize, accept and learn "how to" love others.
 
The author investigates fifteen facets of the love we experience from God.  He states it is in these ways that God invites us to mature as we relate to other people with love. "We can love other people only out of our own experience of being loved." (xxiii)   He also gives examples on how we can learn to love others.  After each chapter, there are four questions to ponder and answer.  I found this part to be especially instrumental in helping me apply what I learned into my everyday life.  
 
As I read this book, I underlined a lot of it, especially in Chapter 5: Longsuffering Love: Patiently Bearing with Each Other.  There are so many nuggets to ruminate over in this chapter.  I guess it is an area that I struggle with. 
 
Here are a few excerpts that spoke to me:
"A necessary aspect of love, therefore, is learning to live patiently with people as they continue on their own journeys of learning to live more righteously.  That's what loving well is all about: giving people the time and space they need as they grow." (Page 68)
 "Living 'happily ever after' is not the goal.  Living well with broken people is." (Page 70)
 "The goal is not to find the latest, greatest way to turn people into model Christians but to love well the imperfect Christians in front of us." (Page 75)
 "The reality is that even blood-bought, Holy Spirit-filled believers sin.  They sin often and they often sin against you.  Therefore, you need to bear as patiently with them as God does with you." (Page 78)
Loving Well is a very informative and well written book.  I definitely want to read it again with the intention of studying it.  I believe this book could be utilized as a textbook for schools, colleges and churches.  I highly recommend this book to everyone, but especially those who work in ministry, such as counselors, pastors and teachers. 

In conclusion, I want to thank Mr. Roberson from The B&B Media Group and New Growth Press for sending me a complimentary copy of Loving Well to read and review.  
    

Thursday, April 26, 2012

There is Hope through the Shame


I was debating on whether I should write this.  But after having a DM (direct message) conversation on Twitter with someone I admire last night, I decided to come out.

I first want to tell you about the person I admire; George Molho.  I recently came across him stumbling upon a book review of his recent memoir, Scarred.  I then began following his articles with the Huffington Post.

Scarred is on my "must read" book list.  Here is a brief description of his memoir:
In 1978, seven-year-old George Molho was kidnapped by his own father. For a year, he survived mental and physical abuse to the point of torture. He found it easier to get used to hell, instead of hoping that heaven was around the corner. George eventually escaped, but surviving the aftermath proved to be much more difficult.
Can you imagine what he went through and endured at the hand of his father?  The thought alone makes me shudder and my guts wrench. He was only seven years old, the age of my eldest son.

But do you know what I find amazing?  He didn't become a statistic.  He didn't allow this horror to defeat him.  But instead, by God's grace he chose to overcome evil by doing good.  He is a hero.

George Molho is a voice being used by God for this generation.  He uses his gift of writing to communicate and help bring awareness to this world.  I happen to be one of the people he is helping and influencing.

Although I haven't nearly experienced what he's been through.  I do understand the nightmare of abuse.  So I can identify with him, which is why I found his recent Huffington Post article, Tackling Shame very helpful.

The word "shame" conjures up a lot and has been a reoccurring theme lately.  I decided to look up the exact meaning of the word:
Shame: A painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness, or disgrace.
Sadly, this is precisely how I feel most of the timeShame is such a powerful emotion which can also be masked or hidden behind other emotions, such as anger. 

Shame is the result of abuse or violation.  Abuse tears at the very core of your being, strips your identity and makes you see life through dark, cloudy or warped glasses.

I honestly wish I didn't have to go through what I went through.  Because as a result, I wage war daily with the onslaught of bad memories, negative thoughts and emotions which is attributed to the abuse.

I also wish I could tell you there was a quick or easier way to overcome your abuse, but there isn't.  Healing from abuse and trauma is an ongoing, day by day process, much like sanctification.  What keeps me going is my faith and realization that I could have been a statistic too.  By the grace of God, I'm still standing. I'm still fighting the good fight.  I am a survivor, an overcomer and I have the victory. Guess what? You do too! Hallelujah, praise God!!

I am writing this blog to encourage those who think or believe that it's all over.  It isn't.  Yes, it is hard and overwhelming, but not without hope or possibility.  We have the victory in Jesus!

 "But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)

 "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities". (Hebrews 4:15) 

Collins English Dictionary defines infirmity as:
1. the state or quality of being infirm

2. physical weakness or debility; frailty

3. a moral flaw or failing
Jesus Christ is our high priest who makes intercession for us (Romans 8:34) You are not alone, He is with you, so please don't give up.  I can attest that things do get better as you heal.  There is definitely a light at the end of the tunnel.  There is much to live for even in the midst of the hurt, pain and scars. 

My prayer is that you will be encouraged today and know that there is hope through the shame.

Please be sure check out George Molho's website and read his helpful articles with the Huffington Post. You can also friend him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

In conclusion, I want to share this inspiring song: Survivor by Glacia Robinson, I hope it blesses you.






Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tyndale Publishers Book Review: Craving Grace by Lisa Velthouse

Craving Grace is the true story of a faith dramatically changed: how in one woman's life God used the sweetness of honey to break through stale religious practices and hollow goodness, revealing the stunning wonder that is God's grace.

Binding:              Hardcover
ISBN:                 978-1-4143-3577-3
List Price:           $16.99
Release Date:     May 2011
Page Count:        272

Craving Grace is a memoir about faith, failure and her search for sweetness.  The premise of this book is the author's struggle and experiences while fasting from sugar, which she refers to as the Honey Project.
"I began fasting from sweets, and suddenly I started having trouble being good.  I started having a lot of trouble being good.  Wherever I turned, I was making mistakes, hurting people, being misunderstood, and making a mess of things.  This didn't make sense, because I was still trying to behave in the same careful way I had always behaved."
Isn't this the case?  In that we earnestly seek to win God's approval by our works.  We tell ourselves if we could only try a little bit harder, follow all the rules and be more disciplined, that maybe, just maybe we'll get His attention.  

We go about assigning ourselves rules and regulations believing that if we do it flawlessly and without fail, He will love us more and/or answer our prayers. Thankfully, that's not how grace works. Grace isn't something we can earn, but something He gives to us freely.    

The following excerpt capsulizes this book for me:
"Having been accepted--more than accepted, loved--by God for exactly who they are, they can be less afraid of being rejected by people, less afraid of knowing and being known.  Understanding that Christ became vulnerable for them to the point of death, they allow themselves to be vulnerable too.  As recipients of God's grace, they themselves become more gracious, less judgmental toward others.  They learn to accept and relish the truth that no one person is more deserving of God than any other.  This shatters walls everywhere."
Here is a short video of Lisa Velthouse discussing Craving Grace vs The Law.

Overall, I think Lisa Velthouse is a good writer and her memoir Craving Grace is an interesting read.  However, what I didn't anticipate was how the chapters didn't follow in sequence, but jumped around a lot.  I honestly didn't enjoy that aspect of the book and personally found it to be counterintuitive.

In conclusion, I would recommend this book to young adult single women.  

I want to personally extend a big thank you to Stephanie S. Smith of (In)dialogue Communications and Tyndale Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy of this book to review.


Lisa Velthouse is a freelance writer and speaker who has been working in communications and ministry for over a decade. She got her start in publishing at the age of 17 when she was selected from over 1,000 applicants to write a year's worth of columns for Brio magazine. While writing for Brio, Lisa began speaking at national evangelical events for teens, and she also came up with the idea for her first book, Saving My First Kiss, which was published shortly after she turned 21. In the years that followed, she worked as a ghostwriter and then served two years on staff at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan.

A believer in God all of her life, Lisa began to feel disenchanted about him during her mid-twenties. So for six months she fasted from sweets in an attempt to learn that God could be sweet. At the start of her fast, she doubted that the process would result in much more than mere discipline, if that. But half a year later, her life and her faith had been transformed. She could see for the first time that God's story is a story of grace, and she was surprised to find that God's grace is the only true sweetness. In her newest book, a memoir titled Craving Grace, Lisa tells the story of her sweets fast and of how life changed for her afterward.

Lisa's writing has been noted in Publishers Weekly and Focus on the Family publications, and she has been a guest on numerous nationwide radio and television programs. Her travels in speaking have taken her across the United States and abroad. She is married to Nathan, an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps; they live wherever military assignments take them. Read more from Lisa at http://lisavelthouse.com.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

David C. Cooke Publishers Book Review: Into The Free by Julie Cantrell

Release Date: February 1, 2012
Publisher: David C. Cook 
Genre: Fiction, Christian 
Pages/Format: 368/Paperback
Author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Buy from Amazon | CBD | Barnes and Noble






Into The Free by Julie Cantrell stole my heart.  This beautiful story captivated me from the start.  I could not put this book down.  I was completely enthralled by it.  The characters, language and imagery combined with a crescendo of emotions. This story depicts life, death, loss, longing, love, hope and mostly forgiveness.

The story centralizes on the life of Millie Reynolds in Depression-era Mississippi.  Unfortunately, Millie goes through a myriad of tragic and heartbreaking experiences. One could not help but sympathize with her.  At such a young age, she was faced many unfortunate circumstances and decisions. One wrong decision or turn could ultimately effect the rest of her life.

Julie Cantrell's writing style is one that flows. Like a waltz, one sentence, paragraph and chapter dancing into the next; smoothly and without interruption.  I was able to visualize every nuance, facial expression, mood and unspoken word.  The story is poignant and moved me to tears.

Julie Cantrell is a virtuoso who orchestrated a literary masterpiece. She uses words on paper much like an artist strokes a canvas or a musician plucks the strings of a human heart.

I commend Julie Cantrell for an absolutely beautiful debut.  She is a gifted writer and story teller.

I will never forget Into The Free; it is an exceptional book which I highly recommend.

In conclusion, I want to personally thank Karen Stoller from David C. Cook Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy of this book to review.


A speech language pathologist and literacy advocate, Julie Cantrell was the editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review.  She has served as a freelance writer for ten years and published two children's books.  Julie and her family live in Mississippi, where they operate Valley House Farm.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Tribute to Jesus



"And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful."  (Revelation 21:5)

I was listening to the above song, This is What You Do... You Make Come Alive.  I was really paying attention to the lyrics and found myself rejoicing as I was walking to work this morning.  I began to remember where I was as opposed to where I am today.  It was enough to want to stop and shout "Hallelujah!" right there in the middle of rush hour.  I was filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude which made my heart overflow with joy. 

As I meditated on what Jesus did for me on the Cross, memories flooded my consciousness.  He reminded me of all the things He saved me from.  I wanted to jump and leap because my heart was full of thanksgiving.  I was in awe of God's love.  His love for us is so great and beautiful beyond description.  When I get glimpses of how great He is, my heart wants to explode.  I don't know whether to cry, laugh, jump, shout, sing or dance... but it is the most amazing feeling... nothing compares to Him.  Like the song says, He makes me come alive and it's like I'm living for the first time. 

I am a living testimony of just how great our God is.  How He transforms lives by His power.  What He has done in my life, only He could have done.  No sleight of hand nor human wisdom could do such a perfect work.  He is the creator of Heaven and Earth.  All He needs to do is say one word and it comes into existence.  His Word is life and it is living water.  His Word refreshes and renews.  His Word changes the hardest heart and transforms the sickest mind.  His Word pierces the darkness and make things new.  Praise to the one and only Jesus Christ.  Glory be to God!!

Jesus embodies and encompasses the greatest love that exists in the entire universe.  I am utterly grateful that He came down, suffered and died for my sins so that I can be set free.  So that I can experience His love, His presence, His peace and have a new life.  A life worth living for... thanks to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  
 
"I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." (Romans 1:16)  I will shout it on top of the highest mountain, or in my case, on the top of the Empire State Building.  I don't mind looking like a fool for Christ because I'm absolutely crazy in love with Him!

On this Good Friday, I want to give tribute, honor and thanksgiving to Jesus Christ.  Jesus, thank you... thank you for dying for me, for saving me, for loving me and for changing me.  There is none like you Jesus.

"Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might." Jeremiah 10:6

Wishing you and your loved ones a blessed Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.