Book Review: Jesus Has Left The Building

Jesus Has Left The Building

By Paul Vieira (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

Paul Vieira, a post-modern, Gen Xer, shares his experience within the traditional (institutional) church and his call to “leave the building” so that he could encounter a more “organic” church experience. What he seeks is something that is more in line with the church that Jesus started and as shown in the gospel accounts.

Just as Jesus “left the building,” both then and, in many respects, now, he is calling his church to follow suit, leaving the comfortable confines of a building and going out into society, just as he did. Vieira shares seven secrets or lessons that can be gleaned from the church that Jesus started.

Drawing parallels between today and the message of Jeremiah and the example of Daniel, Vieira encourages Jesus’ followers to do the same. They are to act counter-cultural (as Jeremiah called the Israelites to do) within their society so that they can be God’s voice when called upon. Today’s institutional church has been marginalized and discredited; society no longer looks there for answers. However, a Jesus follower, truly engaged with his or her culture, can be a source that people turn to for real answers (as was the case with Daniel).

[Jesus Has Left The Building, by Paul Vieira. Published by Karis Publishing, Inc., 2006, ISBN: 978-0971804081, 276 pages.]

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Book Review: Between Two Worlds

Between Two Worlds: The Spiritual Journey of an Evangelical Catholic

By Mike Timmis (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

The subtitle of Between Two Worlds serves as an apt and accurate summary of what the book is about: “The Spiritual Journey of an Evangelical Catholic.”

At first consideration, the phrase “Evangelical Catholic” seems to be a contradiction of terms. However, author Mike Timmis shows autobiographically how these two seemingly enigmatic thoughts are not mutually exclusive. He deftly demonstrates how they comfortably coexist in his life and ensued through an understandable series of events.

Though faithfully and firmly Catholic, Timmis is also Evangelical. He sees the two as a desirable outcome and points to increased activity and acceptance of Catholics who are also Evangelical.

In addition to providing insight into what it means to be both Catholic and Evangelical, Timmis shares his journey, with its joys and sorrows, success and failures, in an interesting and compelling manner.

This book serves nicely as both an interesting memoir of an amazing man and as a Catholic-Evangelical primer.

[Between Two Worlds: The Spiritual Journey of an Evangelical Catholic, by Mike Timmis. Published by NavPress, 2008, ISBN: 978-1600062483, 256 pages.]

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Book Review: Escaping the Cauldron

Escaping the Cauldron: Exposing occult influences in everyday life

By Kristine McGuire (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

In Escaping the Cauldron, Kristine McGuire shares her rollercoaster ride with the occult. What at first seemed like harmless play and entertaining experimentation, eventually progressed into a full-blown embrace of dark spiritual forces. Kristine became a witch. For a time, she pursued her secret life in tandem with Christian practices. Then she turned her back on her faith, before attempting to integrate the two, as a Christian witch.

Kristine’s experience shows that spiritual forces are at work all around us, both good and evil. The good is from God, while the evil forces, though perhaps inviting at first, ultimately enslave and control those who let them in.

Kristine’s story ends well, having been freed by Jesus, she reveals truth about the occult, witchcraft, and magick, warning all who will listen to spurn society’s gullible embrace of the paranormal and avoid being sucked into its insidious pull.

Escaping the Cauldron is part memoir and part tutorial – and completely helpful in discerning fact from fake and wise practices from the unwise ones. We need to be informed and alert, being spiritually perceptive of the supernatural forces in the world.

[Escaping the Cauldron: Exposing occult influences in everyday life, by Kristine McGuire. Published by Charisma House, 2012, ISBN: 978-1616386979, 240 pages.]

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Book Review: Dallas and the Spitfire

Dallas and the Spitfire: An Old Car, An Ex-con, and An Unlikely Friendship

By Ted Kluck and Dallas Jahncke (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

With a sordid past and running out of options, ex-con and former addict Dallas Jahncke acquiesces to enter a drug rehabilitation program at a homeless shelter, one with a Christian perspective. In addition to avoiding more jail time and becoming clean for the first time in years, Dallas also has an encounter with Jesus. To aid him on his journey, Ted Kluck is recruited to provide some ‘discipleship” – whatever that means.

Thirty-something Ted and twenty-something Dallas are about as unlikely a pair as imaginable. They emanate from different backgrounds, neighborhoods, social strata, and experiences. Yet the two of them collaborate in life – and for this book, Dallas and the Spitfire: An Old Car, an Ex-con, and an Unlikely Friendship.

Discipleship, Ted discovers, is raw and unpredictable. Sitting in a coffee shop to pontificate faith or reading a book about God is not going to cut it. Dallas needs more. Dallas needs a friend and a mentor; he needs acceptance and stability; he needs someone who will listen without judging, answer the phone at any hour, and pray at all times.

For their discipleship to work, they need an activity to do. So Ted buys an aging European sports car, a Triumph Spitfire, for them to coax back to life. As Dallas teaches Ted about auto repair, Ted shows Dallas how to be a follower of Jesus.

Written as memoir, Ted’s story is interspersed with Dallas’s own words. The tale is gritty and honest. It’s a guy’s book about a guy’s world, avoiding pat answers or reducing discipleship to a methodology. The result is a compelling read and an inspiring example. Truly discipling another person is not easy, but it is most rewarding.

Read Dallas and the Spitfire to vicariously live it – and then do it, if you dare.

[Dallas and the Spitfire: An Old Car, an Ex-con, and an Unlikely Friendship, by Ted Kluck and Dallas Jahncke. Published by Bethany House. 2012; ISBN: 978-0-7642-0961-1; 184 pages.]

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Book Review: Wrecked

Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life

By Jeff Goins (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

Wrecked is what happened to Jeff Goins when God figuratively tapped him on his shoulder, causing him to turn around and actually see what he had been conveniently overlooking. As a result, his self-centered, non-committed demeanor was pierced. Other people were hurting and Jeff had to help. His once contented life was wrecked by God – and that was a good thing.

As the subtitle of Jeff’s powerful first-person story proclaims, being wrecked is what happens “when a broken world slams into your comfortable life.” Even so, his transformation did not happen abruptly, but gradually as he became open and willing to engage it.

In an accessible style, Jeff relates his story and those he meets on his journey in an inviting manner, tangibly showing what a wrecked life is like. It may not be an easy one, but it is a good one. Being wrecked is living to truly love, to give and not take, to show mercy and grace, and to promote justice.

Maybe you’ve already been wrecked and could benefit from vicariously walking with Jeff on the same path. Perhaps you were wrecked once, but that was long ago and you’ve shoved it aside to do what was expected by others or considered normal by society. Or possibly, you’ve shut your eyes and covered your ears so God could not wreck your life. We each fit in one of these three categories and regardless of which one, Wrecked was written for us.

[Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life, by Jeff Goins. Published by Moody Publishers, Chicago, 2012, ISDN: 978-0-8024-0492-3, 169 pages, $13.99]

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Book Review: Praying for Strangers

Praying for Strangers: An Adventure of the Human Spirit

By River Jordan (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

River Jordan proclaims herself to be a private person. She keeps personal things to herself and her faith is personal – strong and real, but personal. So why would a reserved novelist alter her preference and her practice to write about her spiritual journey? The answer is as unexpected as the journey itself: it was God’s idea.

As 2008 was ending, River reluctantly made a New Year’s pledge: to pray for a stranger every day for one year. This was one resolution she would keep. Her book, Praying for Strangers: An Adventure of the Human Spirit, is the story of this endearing faith journey. Actually it is many stories, the stories of the strangers she met and prayed for.

Sometimes her prayers would be offered without the stranger’s knowledge, but for others – perhaps increasingly so as the year progressed – she would approach them, explain her resolution, and then listen. And they would have much to share, as their story – their fears, challenges, and burdens – flowed forth with ease and release.

In almost all cases she was received well, with her reaching out being repeatedly received as an answer to their prayers or the yearning of their hearts.Over and over it was clear God was directing her to the right person who most needed her care, concern, and prayers that day. Tears would be shed and hugs offered.

The strangers River Jordan prayed for were powerfully affected, River was powerfully affected, and so to can we as we vicariously journey with her in Praying for Strangers.

[Praying for Strangers: An Adventure of the Human Spirit, by River Jordan. Published by Penguin Group. 2011; ISBN: 978-0-425-23964-3; 322 pages.]

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Book Review: Isn’t it Time for a Coffee Break?

Isn’t it Time for a Coffee Break? Doing Life Together in an All-about-me Kind of World

By Amelia Rhodes (reviewed by Peter DeHaan

Isn't It Time for a Coffee Break?: Doing Life Together in an All-About-Me Kind of WorldIn her new book, Isn’t it Time for a Coffee Break?, Amelia Rhodes shares her journey of connecting with others, to form community and provide encouragement. Her six chapters, cleverly build on coffee metaphors – the aroma of relationships, brew a strong cup, the variety of blends, and so forth, using narrative to show the value of pursuing deeper friendships. Her personal experiences add delightful flavor, while her ample use of scripture provides valuable external support. Life is better when shared.

Although written from a female perspective, Coffee Break, offers application for both women and men. While perhaps more accessible to women, the message may be needed more by men to combat a tendency towards isolation. Even more so, the lessons of Coffee Break are ideal for couples desiring to work together to form a meaningful faith community with others.

One engaging story is her husband’s desire to use his past pizzeria experience to host monthly homemade pizza parties for their growing network of friends. He plans to make the crust (his specialty) and supply the sauce and cheese. Everyone else brings his or her favorite toppings. They will make homemade pizzas, share food, spend time in community, and connect their friends. The first event is “mayhem,” but everyone returns the next month and continues to do so for the next few years until Amelia and her family move. With 25 to 40 people present, half under the age of six, it’s organized confusion, but with the intent of providing hospitality to friends rather than entertaining guests, it’s hugely successful.

Though Isn’t it Time for a Coffee Break? is of practical application to both genders, it’s unfortunately marketed to women.

[Isn’t It Time for a Coffee Break?: Doing Life Together in an All-About-Me Kind of World (Circle of Friends), by Amelia Rhodes. Published by Barbour Publishing Inc. 2012; ISBN: 978-1-61626-887-9; Kindle, advanced reader copy.]

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Book Review: A Good and Perfect Gift

A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny

By Amy Julia Becker (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

How do we react in the presence of someone who is physically or mentally different from us? Do we accept them, ignore them, or retreat? Do we say the right things, the wrong things, or say nothing?

These are all issues that confronted Amy Julia Becker after she was informed her daughter Penny was not what she was expecting. Penny had Down syndrome.

In A Good and Perfect Gift, Amy Julia shares her story as she struggled to understand, accept, and finally embrace the gift God had given her in Penny. Amy Julia writes with transparency and integrity as she honestly relates her questions and faith struggle – and later reveals insights and an enlightened comprehension of Down syndrome and what it means in the world today.

There are things Penny will never realize because she has Down syndrome, but there are also things – special and amazing things – she will exhibit and give, only because she has Down syndrome. To miss those would be to miss much.

Penny is indeed a good and perfect gift.

[A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny, by Amy Julia Becker. Published by Bethany House Publishers. 2011; ISBN: 978-0-7642-0917-8; 237 pages.]

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Book Review: Kisses from Katie

Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption

By Katie Davis, with Beth Clark (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

From all appearances, Katie Davis was a typical all-American high school student: homecoming queen, class president, lots of friends, and frequent trips to the mall, with a loving boyfriend, cool convertible, and doting parents who would do just about anything for her – including sending her to the college of her choice.

Yet she also had a deep passion to follow Jesus and serve him fully. After repeated begging, she went on a two-week mission trip to Uganda during her senior year Christmas break. There her heart was broken for the plight of the Ugandan people. She quickly fell in love with them, desiring to return. Upon graduation, she did just that. It would only be for a year, she promised her parents. Then she would obediently go to college as they wished. But when college didn’t work out, she bought a one-way ticket to return to her home in Uganda.

There Katie is impacting Uganda in ways that belies her years, adopting orphans, putting kids through school, feeding the hungry, and providing basic care to the hurting, marginalized, and ignored.

Katie’s life inspiringly shows us that with the help of Jesus one person can make a difference. Age, education, and gender aren’t factors; all that’s required is a resolute heart to do whatever Jesus tells you to do. Just ask Katie Davis.

[Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption, by Katie Davis, with Beth Clark; published by Howard Books, 2012, ISDN: 978-1451612097, 304 pages.]

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Book Review: Kingdom Journeys

Kingdom Journeys: Rediscovering the Lost Spiritual Discipline

By Seth Barnes (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

Seth Barnes begins Kingdom Journeys by relating one of his own – a journey both physical and spiritual – one he first took as a 20-something college graduate. It resulted from restlessness, an inner desire to do something that mattered. It bubbled up inside. He needed to be more, to be part of something greater. “I had trusted Jesus to save me from hell,” he recounts, “but I hadn’t begun to understand the life he offered before death.”

Not content to simply share his own story, Seth relates the accounts of many other kingdom sojourners, of Jessi, Claud, Eugene, Miguel, David, Marlena, Matt, Tiffany, Ruth, Keturah, and many more. He weaves in practical biblical teaching and the wisdom of others to support the practice of pursuing a kingdom journey, which asserts Seth Barnes, is a spiritual discipline.

Although there is renewed interest in pursuing spiritual disciplines, one often overlooked is the discipline of a kingdom journey. The first such journey happened about 2,000 years ago. Jesus sent his followers out in groups of two, with no provisions and no plan other than to heal the sick and proclaim his kingdom. We will do well to emulate their example and follow Jesus’ instructions. “God is not in the destination,” teaches Seth, “but in the journey.”

Over several decades, Seth has encouraged thousands, including his own children, to pursue their own kingdom journeys. Embarking on an extended kingdom journey – not a short-term mission trip – is not just for young adults but is for people of all ages and at any stage in life.

Seth wraps up his thoughts on the importance of taking a kingdom journey, saying: “To end well, we have to fight our natural tendency toward self-preservation and control. Jesus tells us that losing our life is the only way to discover it.”

[Kingdom Journeys: Rediscovering the Lost Spiritual Discipline, by Seth Barnes. Published by Ashland Press, 2012, ASIN: B009EW6MUW, Kindle.]

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