Monday, April 22, 2013

Craig Groeschel - Altar Ego [Book Review]

 'Altar Ego' by Craig Groeschel, Senior Pastor at Oklahoma wins book of the year so far for me. Last year one book that I read that rocked my world was Pete Wilson (Senior Pastor at Crosspointe Church Nashville)'s 'Empty Promises' while that delved into how we can continually remind ourselves of the real truth about the world and ourselves through the practice of various disciplines, Craig Groeschel's Altar Ego is a very practical book that deals with the issue of identity in Christ and how to live it out on a daily basis.

For anything in the world don't miss the chapters Bold Behaviour, Bold Prayers and Bold Words ( Chapters 9,10 and 11 respectively) even if you have to stand at the shelf in a bookstore and read them. One great thing about the book is how Craig shares vulnerably of the everyday ways he experiences God's power in his life and even the shortcomings he's looking to God to change. You will definitely relate. In Altar Ego, Craig beckons us to acknowledge our labels even if we don't deserve whatever we are called as individuals, not pretend like it does not exist and trust God to manifest in us the new name He's already given us.

Apart from a number of failed attempts at humor that might cause you to roll your eyes every once in a while and a hunger for more when this 'short' book ends, 'Altar Ego' might just be the most life changing book you would come across this year. Yes, it's that good.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Mark Driscoll - Who Do You Think You Are? [Book Review]

I do hope I don't get into a lot of trouble in writing this review but I think I'm up to it, so let's go.

First I would like to say I didn't pick up this book as a 'much needed read'. I actually picked it up with police eyes, more out of curiosity but upon finishing it, I would say I was blessed, enlightened and learnt a lot of new things. But I'm glad I didn't drop my police eyes cause if I did, then what really is the point of this review?

There some people who write books and you just can't afford not to read, even if all they write about is how they helped their little baby off the potty last night. I heard you say Rob Bell. Pastor Mark is also one too.

Mark Driscoll, Edgy, Bold, Confrontational, Dynamic, Relevant, is one of the few contemporary preachers I perceive as a theologian and whose works or words might be quoted many years from now. That said, let's get to the book.  In 'Who Do You Think You Are', Pastor Mark's major premise is 'how we can find our identity in Christ' or basically 'what our identity in Christ is'. A lot of books have been written on this subject, one that comes readily to mind is Dr. Neil T. Anderson's 'Victory Over Darkness'. So what makes this one unique?

One of the things I love overall about this book is how Mark Driscoll could related a lot of biblical truths (for example reconciliation) to a lot of social issues going on in this time and day. Also, Shockingly, unlike any book on identity in Christ I have read, there is a whole chapter on suffering titled 'I am afflicted'. Pastor Marks writes down a reality only few preachers might be willing to share today and I quote "those who have served Him most faithfully have been afflicted most painfully.

That said, remember that Einstein quote about making it as simple as ABC but not making it simpler? Great. This book is an exact metaphor of that saying. I feel in an attempt to make it all very simple, it came out really watered down in most parts. One example of that is the chapter on 'spiritual' gift titled 'I am gifted' in which Pastor Mark goes on to list a series of gifts listed in the bible and writes in the introductory parts of the chapter that musical ability, athletic prowess and artistic skill are 'spiritual' gifts as long as they propagate the gospel. My questions for Pastor Mark (hoping he takes out time out of his busy schedule to read this) are these:

1. Are you saying a spiritual gift is same as a talent?
2. Can you 'develop' a spiritual gift into a skill

and many more cause this particular chapter raises a lot of questions instead of answering them.

I won't assume but somehow I get what Pastor Mark ventures out to make clear in an age where it's been made to look like (in some circles) that if you don't 'prophesy'  or 'interpret tongues' you don't have a spiritual gift. In the later part of this chapter he calls the 'word of knowledge' the gift of knowledge terming it the gift that makes one want to know and research. Interesting. (if this is not clear, more reason you should buy the book and gain a new perspective on things).

I appreciate Pastor Marks effort to simplify dense biblical concepts and the research done in the coming about of this book is evident and rich but the text appears to wordy, dense and at times a bit distracting as the author drifts to a different concept at times. Reading this for me brought back the nostalgic feeling of reading Wayne Grudem's 'Systematic Theology'. And maybe this is just one of those textbook like book you consult throughout life's journey (have one of those? I have a couple of good books I read every now and then. LOL! )

'Who do you think you are' is packed, rich and one of those books that might be around for a long time. But my advice as you dive in dive in with your bible as life jacket. It's an in depth contextual study on the book of Ephesians in most part and there are lots of side notes and references. So get ready. 


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