Book Review : Coming Apart

In his latest book, Coming Apart; The State of White America 1960-2010, Charles Murray has written a book that paints a picture of a segment of America that is not often covered by the mainstream media. Murray’s thesis is that there is a widening class gap in the United States today. This class gap is the result of a reoccurring race war. In fact, it is not based on different skin colors at all. This class gap is occurring within what Murray calls “White America”. Through an overabundance of statistical data that is interesting at best and burdensome at worst, Murray shows how these two worlds exist at the same time, yet rarely cross paths.

 In order to prove his point about this ever-widening gap across White America, he introduces the reader to two fictional cities; Belmont and Fishtown. Belmont represents a city of the upper class (defined by Murray as that having a population in the top 5% in both wealth and education). Belmont is marked by the high income family, the college educated, and the culturally affluent. Fishtown, on the other hand, represents the lower class of White America, everything that Belmont is not. Fishtown is marked by the absence of culture, the high school dropout, and the blue-collar worker.

The better part of the book is spent exploring the four areas that Murray believes are the causes for the widening gap in White America: marriage, industriousness, honesty, and religion. Murray does a good job demonstrating how the breakdown in and the inattention to these four areas lead to the gap being widened. I must say that this book is not an easy read. On the contrary, it is laborious at times. It is written in a very scholarly manner and format that reminds me of a textbook for a college socioeconomics class. All in all, a good book about a topic that I was not fully aware of.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers as part of their Blogger Review 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review : The Fourth Fisherman

 The Fourth Fisherman; How Three Fishermen Who Came Back from the Dead Changed My Life and Saved My Marriage by Joe Kissack is a book of two stories. First, it is the story of Kissack, a former Hollywood insider who enjoyed the good life; money, fame, homes, status, who, through constant pressure and stress to “keep up”, fell victim to alcohol and drug abuse. His life began to spiral out of control and eventually found himself in a rehab facility. Kissack turned his life around through faith in God. Next, it is the story of five fishermen who set out on a routine fishing trip from their home town of San Blas, Mexico. Their story made international headlines in 2006 when three of the five survived a nine month ordeal at sea when their small fishing boat ran out of gas and they began to drift. They were rescued over 5000 miles away from where they began, surviving off of rain water, raw fish, and sea turtles.

The Fourth Fisherman is written is parallel form. Each chapter alternates between the fishermen’s story and Kissack’s story; while at the same time dealing with the same life issue. This format goes along for about half the book. Upon hearing of the fishermen’s rescue, he feels a kindred spirit with them, citing his recent “rescue” by God. Kissack puts his entire life on hold, dives into his life savings, and heads to Mexico in order to meet these fishermen and hopefully, in film, tell their story of faith in God that sustained that them for nine months.

The Fourth Fisherman moves at a quick pace and is well written. It is an easy read and not a deep treatment of the subject of faith. To be honest and truthful, faith is used in general terms. There is no mention of the gospel and the forgiveness of sin. Only faith. The only statement in the book from Kissack that even comes close to a conversion statement is “I think…God has just come into my life” and “I think I was visited by God last night.” For a book that is centered around the concept of faith and trusting God, I just wish Kissack had pointed his readers to Christ, whose death on the cross makes a relationship God possible. At the end of the day, a feel-good book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers as part of their Blogger Review 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review : The Searchers

In “The Searchers: A Quest for Faith in the Valley of Doubt” professor and historian Joseph Loconte takes his readers back in time and joins the two travelers on their journey down the ancient road to Emmaus. Using the crucifixion of Christ as the backdrop of his story, Loconte chronicles for us, by expounding the passage of Luke 24, the search these two friends are now engaged in. A search for meaning. A search for purpose. A search for understanding after their lives were shattered seeing their Savior crucified just days earlier.

Loconte shows how the journey and search of these two friends parallels our own journey and search in life. What Loconte reveals to us in that the doubts and fears of these two friends are our doubts and fears. We will all have circumstances and events that shake our foundations and challenge our beliefs. In the same way Jesus guided these two men with the facts that He was Israel’s promised Messiah, the Father’s plan for redemption through Calvary’s cross, and that He would rise again, Loconte also serves as a guide. Using elements such as philosophy, science, history, poetry, pop culture, and religion, Loconte brilliantly weaves together their journey and ours. For example, in Chapter Four, entitled “End of Illusions”, in order to draw the parallel from ancient Jerusalem to today, Loconte included references to Sigmund Freud, Robert Browning, The Bourne Identity, Cold War Communism, The Ottoman Empire, Old Testament Prophecy, Johnny Cash, and Clement Attlee.

The Searchers is a thought-provoking work. It is packed full of facts and historical information. This book is 205 pages long and is not an easy read. Although the book wrapped around the twenty-three verses of Luke 24, the supporting information will take some time to digest. I recommend this book to all who may be struggling with doubt. There is great insight to be found here. A great tool for all believers.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Blogger Review 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review : The Search Committee

The Search Committee by Tim Owens is a story of a colorful and identifiable collection of members from a small southern Presbyterian church who have been entrusted with the task of locating the next pastor for their church. Owens introduces us to Bill, the oldest of the group and designated bus driver. Joyce, the resident northerner brand new to the south also rides along. Susie and Dot are the single mother and town gossip, respectively. Travis is the young married man struggling with his wife’s desire to start a family. Matt is the single, professional PhD type living at home with his father and Frankie is the pleasant and unassuming woman carrying a heavy burden.

Owens’ book is about a parallel journey. On one rail of the track he chronicles the committee’s travels to and from churches across North and South Carolina. He does so by providing details on such things as the condition and smell of the old church van to the people they meet during their church visits. He frequently discusses their “system” of entering churches so as not to be identified by the churches as the group coming to “steal the pastor”. As a pastor, this method of search is one that I am familiar with. Owens recounts their travels, experiences, troubles, mishaps, and portions of their life stories. On the other rail of the track, he chronicles the journey that each of the seven members are on personally. As the members listen to the sermons of each prospective pastor, we learn how each one is impacted.

I really enjoyed this book. Owens does a great job of pulling the covers back on the lives of the committee so the reader may see their vulnerable human side. As he does, Owens reminds us that although we may look as though we have it together on the outside, you never know what happening inside. The Search Committee is a great read; easy and quietly challenging. I found myself laughing out loud at the actions of the committee. In other places, I was deeply moved by their life experiences. Owens includes a study guide at the end that would allow this to be a helpful small group resource on the subtle ways in which God works in our lives. I highly recommend.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers as part of their Blogger Review 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review : Free Book

“Free Book” by Brian Tome is a book about the freedom that an individual can find through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Tome, in a very animated and excitable fashion, encourages his readers to live this free life to its fullest. I had an immediate interest in this book due to the subject. I wish I could say that I liked it, but I can’t. “Free Book” did not deliver. Tome’s book started slowly, and I was tempted to put it down. The book does get a little better as it goes along. Tome’s style of writing is different. It is in-your-face and some may even find it offensive in parts. I had hoped this book would have been deeper. It just seemed “light” to me in the areas where depth was needed. If you have been a Christian for any period of time, there is not a whole here that you will find new. Freedom is about surrender and surrender is a life-long process. That process is discipleship. However, one part shone through. I found the chapter dealing with overcoming personal strongholds and evicting “squatters” from your life to be especially helpful. These chapters were well written and gave sound and practical principles that can help make a difference. I was challenged to evaluate my life and determine if anything negative had moved-in that did not belong that may prove harmful. Overall, I give this book two stars.  

Book Review Bloggers : Free Book

 I have just received my next book from the Book Review Blogger program. I will be reading and reviewing Free Book, by Brian Tome.  The main idea and thrust of this book is about freedom in Christ. Here is a sample from the cover:

The Bible says that ‘where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.’ Not fear. Not guilt. Not morality. Not even religion. Freedom. The fact that this may sound new, odd, or even heretical to you is why you need this message. Imagine living free from the burdens of your past mistakes and others’  expectations. Imagine waking up excited and full of hope. You can have the sort of joy you thought only kids could have. The day of freedom is here.”

Book Review Blogger – Where is God?

 “Where is God?” Arguably the most often asked question of the day in our world of terrorist attacks, divorce, child abuse, economic hardships, layoffs, sickness, and depression. In his latest book, Dr. Townsend tackles this age-old question. This is the first book of Townsend’s that I have read and am an instant fan. It is a true winner. Through personal experience, years of Christian counseling, and a healthy does of biblical principle, he enables the reader to understand what brings us to the point of questioning God’s presence in our lives.

 I was challenged and encouraged by this book. I was challenged to remember that although I can’t see God working up front, I can trust He is working behind the scenes. Townsend cements his writing in three over-arching themes that he further develops throughout the book: God is for us and working on our behalf, our experiences matter to God, and Bible is our only source for understanding difficulty.  What I liked most was that Townsend did not hide or sugarcoat the reality that life can be difficult and cruel. Instead, he challenges the reader to look first to God in their search for understanding.

 If you are struggling yourself or helping another work through a difficult time, this book is well worth the time. Solid and insightful.