Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Review of Thomas Locke's Renegades

Sean and Dillion are back! In the second installment in what I hope will be an on-going series, Thomas Locke weaves together multiple story lines and introduces us to new worlds and new characters in his thrilling new work.

The action is fast paced. The only problem you face when reading this book is how can you stop and wait until the next day to continue reading. Locke’s description of new worlds and new technology is amazing. You can see what a fictional world looks like after reading this novel. As one of the characters  in the book says about another gift, the ability to create images with words is a gift that cannot be taught and can only be honed. He has honed his gift well.

The story will draw you in. If you like to try to guess the outcome, good luck. The author manages again to point the story in one direction and then suddenly shift the flow to an unseen conclusion. The characters that we met in the first Recruits Novel appear in the second but mostly through only the memories and musing of the Twins. This one is about refining the skills that make the twins unique. That uniqueness is what is called for in the current crisis facing our reluctant heroes.

I may be stretching it here, but I can see a possible connection at some point in the future between this series and the Legends of the Realm Series. Those who are familiar with both may or may not agree with me. If true it would be a stroke of genius for Locke to tie them all together with the Fault Lines series in a way that would connect the ancient past, the present or near future, and the distant future. I’ll just leave that with the fans to mull over for a while!

I enjoyed the story immensely. I believe if you are a fan of good fiction you will as well. Now I can’t wait until the next installment in this compelling series!

I received a promotional copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Review of How to Disciple Men (Short and Sweet)

If you are a pastor or staff leader in a local church and you desire to reach and disciple men then you need to get a copy of the book, How to Disciple Men (Short and Sweet) by Jay Payleitner and David Morrow. It’s 45 short essays written by leaders in the effort to reach men. The book is divided into several sections. Section 1 is the case for ministry to men. The essays deal with the why of the effort in large part. This is a great section if your church hasn’t yet decided to go after men in a systematic effort. Section 2 deals with how to plan and conduct successful events for men. This can help you move your ministry to a new level. Section 3 deals with the various aspects of discipling men in your church. If you are looking to move beyond the attractional events in the ministry to men, this will be a place you will want to spend some time. Section 4 is about men and small groups. This section could have been a little larger to have made it more useful, but the stuff there is really good stuff. Section 5 deals with targeting subgroups within the whole ministry to men. If you are looking to find a smaller section of the population you might find what you are looking for here. Section 6 spends five chapters dealing with how to teach men and how to get them involved in prayer and evangelism. Every ministry needs help in that area! Section 7 provides more organizational info regarding taxes, volunteers, and full time ministry opportunity. Section 8 focuses on the personal health of the leader of the men’s ministry.

I found the book to be an engaging resource for those who long to see more men involved fully in the life of the church as a whole. Some chapters are going to be more critical depending on where you are and where your passions lie in the effort to reach men and help them reach more men. I would encourage another volume in this series to really drill down into the practical nuts and bolts of how you accomplish the things laid out in each of these short essays. Almost every one of these chapters could be a book if fleshed out and many of them are by folks who have done just that. But who has time to read 45 books these days?

This is definitely a book you should have on your shelf if you are on staff at any church in America. If you are blessed to have someone leading your church’s effort to reach men, I would highly recommend you buy this book for him. If you don’t, then maybe you can buy two copies and get together with the person you want to lead your ministry to men and discuss how these chapters might apply to your local situation. It’s hard to read these essays and not come away with a renewed or new vision for the impact reaching men in our churches could have on the kingdom of God and the world around us.

Friday, July 28, 2017

2017 Gator Football prognostication!

Last year, let’s see what I wrote about the season before it began!

So there you go, that’s my picks for the year. A 9-3 season that may be good enough to get the Gators back to Atlanta or it may only be good enough for third in the east. Let’s hope we can keep our starters away from GNC this year and perhaps we will have an even better ending to the season than the beginning.

I missed on the Arkansas game and my hedged bet with the Vols came true and I knew we didn’t have enough for the Noles last year so I was pretty much on track with my picks. Getting to Atlanta to face the Tide is always a tricky thing, you want to get there because you can’t win the SEC without doing so, but playing Bama for the title is a big mountain to climb. Saban has it rolling in T-town and while you might not like it, until you knock em off, they are the kings of the mountain!

So let’s see if we can get close again this year!

We kick it off with Michigan in Jerry’s World Stadium. I honestly think this is a toss up game that could come down to one major break either way. So I’ll take the loss in the book for me and say the Gators will win this one. I think a whole summer of hearing how they didn’t show up for the bowl game against UM will be a motivational factor for the orange and blue.

Northern Colorado comes to town in week two and the first home night game of the season. The fans will be up, the players will be up and while it will be closer than some season openers, the Gators will be sitting at 2-0 after week 2!

The annual beat down of the Vols…oh wait, they won last year didn’t they? Yep and it will only be a one game winning streak. The Vols are not going to end the losing streak in Gainesville on a September hot Saturday afternoon. The Swamp will rock out in blue and send the creamsicles home in a puddle.

The game with Kentucky is a hard one to call. Coach Stoops has them moving in the right direction and the game being in the bluegrass state makes me a little nervous. Another streak is on the line but I’ll take the Gators to win a close one and once again we will hear the cheers of wait till basketball!

The Gators finish the month with the game against Vanderbilt. The Doors will be tough again but at home they will not be able to hang with the Gators. The Vanderbilt navy will get beached on the Florida sand and the Gators will be undefeated heading into a homecoming battle with the LSU tigers!

Coach O and the tigers better pray there is another hurricane that forces this game to move to Baton Rouge again! Otherwise, the fans are going to be over hyped for this matchup. Too much has been made of the events that led to the Gators heroic fourth down stop on the last play of the game in Tigertown last year. Gator fans need to hope the QB situation has settled down because with the LSU defense, we’re going to need solid play from the QB to win it. I think we get it and the Gators move into the top 5.

Texas A&M is the classic trap game and I think the Gators will fall into the trap. I look for the team to come out flat, rally late but fall short for the year’s first loss in the swamp and in the SEC race.

After a bye week, the annual grudge game happens in Jacksonville. This one should determine who wins the eastern division. I like the Gators chances if we still have the same QB. Either Kirby has one of those great second year moves or the talk will be about why he can’t beat the Gators either in Jacksonville and some of the dog fans will be howling about moving the game!

The Gators should win at Missouri but we haven’t played particularly well there in the past. Let’s hope this team gets down to business on the west side swing of the eastern division of the SEC schedule. Yeah that makes no sense to anyone outside of the home offices either.

The fighting chickens await the Gators for another road trip in consecutive weeks this time to the far eastern team in the SEC east! It will be a hard fought contest, but I think the offense of the Gators will be better than the offense of the Gamecocks, so we come back home with the lone loss.
UAB is a rebuilding team after some alumni got to the legislators in Alabama and demanded they reinstate the program. Look for a lot of guys to play in this one as the started should be able to rest the second half in preparation for the GAME of the year.

The game against the Noles is the biggest game of Coach Mac’s short career here in Gainesville. He needs to avoid the reputation of always being beat by Jimbo. I’ll hedge my pick here a little by saying that if Florida has the same starting QB from week 4 playing in this game they win. That would be the first time in like 6 years that was the case. So to all my Nole friends, I know you’ve won but you’ve had a lot of help prior to the game, some of it self inflicted by the Gators! I don’t think the Gators can win this game with a backup QB but then again I don’t think the Noles can either. So whichever team is healthier will probably win. Let’s hope it’s the Gators this time.

So an 11-1 season is not out of the realm of possibility here. But I can also see a scenario from a couple of key injuries to Callaway not being able to stay out of trouble off the field where the tide could turn and the Gators finish 7-4. Let’s stick with the positive side and hope for a great year to be a fan of Florida Football.

Then as a reward, we get BAMA! Hey but to win it, you must be in it. And one of these times, the ball is going to bounce the opposite way and Saban is going to lose his mind! Let’s hope it’s this year folks.

Go Gators!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Brief review of John Maxwell's, The Power of Significance

The Power of Significance by John Maxwell is another in the long line of very insightful works by this author. If you don’t read it for any other reason, the section on the three questions will be well worth your time. And no, I’m not going to give them to you in this review! This book is a great resource to those who want to live their lives for more than just success. Many will find a great companion for the second season of their lives in the book. However, it’s not just for old folks like me. The principles in the book when applied at a younger age can lead the reader on an incredible journey of adding value and significance to both their lives and the lives they touch as they journey through life. I would highly recommend you read this book for yourself!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Review of Recruits by Thomas Locke

Recruits is the newest release by one of my favorite authors, Thomas Locke. The sci-fi work has everything that makes people love this genre. The creative thoughts are intelligent and believable. For me that is what makes really good fiction. Can I believe the story? The answer in this case is a resounding yes! As the plot unfolds in Recruits, the reader becomes more engaged in the details of the story and less concerned with the science-fiction aspect of the book as it should be.

The characters are well developed as all of Locke’s characters are. The details of the environment are magnificently told so that we are totally able to visualize both the places we know and the places that exist only in the story. The transitions between the two worlds are seamless and brilliant. You’ll find yourself totally immersed in the plot and forget that you are reading about a world that exists only in the mind of a great author.

Recruits has something for everyone. Romance, Intrigue, Fantasy, Battle, Interpersonal Drama, and even a Morality Issue are all found in the pages of this great work by Locke. If you are a fan of fiction, you will love this book. It’s a great spring break or summer time read. It’s engaging but also wildly entertaining. I highly recommend this book on many levels.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for my review.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Balance: The proper perspective for ministry to college students

Balance. It’s a word we don’t think about often but are affected by every day. When we are young it comes with a price, usually a few bumps and bruises as we learn that critical skill needed to become a mobile human being. When we get old it is a treasure as those we love struggle to maintain it so they don’t become a victim to the troubles that come with a fall. It means to keep or put something in a steady position so that it does not fall.

I’ve been doing ministry with college students long enough to see a few things. I kind of feel like the Farmers Insurance commercial there. I know a few things, because I’ve seen a few things! The current trend seems to be to focus heavily on discipleship with college students. And that’s a great thing. We’ve seen resurgence in our discipleship at the BCM and the effects are awesome. However, this isn’t the first time the pendulum has swung in the discipleship direction in my lifetime. Early in my ministry and when I became a believer in Jesus it was the rage then. We all knew the chart that if we just did discipleship with two people every six months the world would be won to Christ by now. Well that is true in theory, just not very doable in practice!

Then the emphasis on large group meetings became the way to reach more college students. Fueled by the success of Louie Giglio and Pasion and Gregg Matte and Breakaway, the push became to make a dynamic large group teaching and music venue the driving force in ministries. Churches even began to have their own College Worship services. And that was good even great for a season. The majority of resources were committed to making the weekly meeting the best and brightest thing on campus. Campus ministers began to focus more on their communication skills in front of large groups. And that was a good thing until it began to produce fewer disciples and more attenders. Suddenly it was harder to attract them and more stressful to keep producing a better show each week. While there are still some awesome speakers who can handle the large crowds, the spaces to host those and people to lead them are limited, so the pendulum moved again.

The effort to reach out and share the gospel through programs like FAITH witness training gained traction in some areas of college life for a while. Teams were formed, contacts were generated, and lives were transformed by the witness of others. When FAITH was too long or too structured, college ministers turned to Share Jesus Without Fear or similar programs. We trained students in everything from gospel tracts to E-Cubes. And for a while there was great effort made in saturating the campus with witnesses. Cold call evangelism was prevalent through surveys and dramas depicting Heaven and Hell even made appearances on the college scene. And God used those efforts to bring thousands of students to Himself. But then the movement known as Post-Modernism began to form on the campus and the idea of apologetics and convincing someone of the truth of Jesus was made a bit more difficult. So the pendulum moved again.

It seems to me that the most effective long term ministries have always had a proper balance of those things and other programs. Sure they may not be the biggest, the brightest, or the most known. But over the years they have continued to produce solid disciples and have continued to make an impact on their campuses and local churches. Most of us who serve in collegiate ministries have egos and a desire to want to reach as many students as we can with the gospel. So we can be tempted to run after the latest hot method or strategy. But in the end, it’s those who maintain the course that the Lord gives them who produce lasting results. Their ministries seem to be on solid ground all the time. They have found the sense of balance that comes from operating from who they are and how God has gifted them. We need a solid balanced idea of ministry that includes discipleship, evangelism, a large group event, small group involvement, engagement in missions and a challenge to be a great commission fulfilling worldview! The emphasis might shift from time to time, but let’s keep a balanced approach to reaching, teaching and sending college students to help expand the kingdom of the Lord rather than our own.

Monday, November 28, 2016

My Review of The Jerusalem Protocol from David Orlo

The Jerusalem Protocol

The second novel from new author David Orlo continues the Regan Hart series. While it's not necessary for the reader to have read the first book, it would be helpful. The three main characters in the book are continued from The Cloud Strike Prophecy and while there are retrospective narratives that provide some insight into how the story developed, first time readers may wonder how and why this team is together. Readers can always go back and read the first book to fill in the blanks after completing the current story.

The main trio of Ty, Solly, and of course Regan Hart are back and involved in an international incident that could have been ripped from the pages of any current newspaper. The only negative about the plot line is that with a little more effort it could have been split into at least two books. There are several sub plots and twists that are really solved a little too easily to be truly believable. I wish Orlo had taken a bit more time to develop these stories and inserted a little more tension for the characters by not having all of them work out in favor of the good guys. That is something that seasoned writers include to build intrigue and identification with the characters. As an avid reader of fiction that is what really separates the good from the great authors.

Knowing the author personally I can see where his desire to have the message of Jesus be the focus of the book caused the story to flatten out a little. This makes sense given the nature of the book in some ways as a part of the series, but might cause some new readers to scratch their head as to why it becomes the central theme in a book centered on the rebuilding of the Jewish temple. The story is a bit too neat and tidy for me. I would have preferred a little more left unfinished to adequately mirror real life and help me stay connected to the story and characters.

With that being said, the book is a great read. The story is interesting in its scope and implications. It's based on good research and many trips by the author to the places included in the book. With more experience writing the development of the back story of the characters will improve but it is adequate now. The plot has enough twists to keep you engaged. You will want to keep reading until you get to the end. I was intrigued by the weaving together of the stories concerning ISIS, the Jews, intelligence agencies, and Christian concerns. It makes perfect sense and while it may be too simplified the reader can imagine the outcome actually happening sometime in our near future.

I highly recommend the book and I look forward to future installments from Orlo and the Regan Hart Series or other stories. This book will be appreciated by anyone, but for those interested in Christian or Jewish Prophecy, it will be a thought provoking masterpiece. It might even get them to ask, "Is this fiction or a not yet fulfilled reality?"

I received a complimentary copy of the book for my review and honest commentary.