Book Review: A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles by Eugene Merrill

1 Chronicles is too often where read through the Bible plans too often go to die. The chronicle of names in the 1st 9 chapters of 1 Chronicles is often a test of reading perseverance and a sense of gratitude your name didn’t come from that list.

So who would read A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles? I would because 1 & 2 Chronicles gives a sense of who we are as the people of God, and even greater a sense of who God is and who He still desires to make us to be.

In addition since the commentary is part of the Kregel Exegetical Library, I was intrigued to see if the emphasis on exegeting the text and then how to preach the text would work in such a challenging book.

Eugene Merrill gets high marks for his exegetical work. If there was ever a book to get lost and confused in it is this book. I appreciated the numerous charts, the insights and the broad scope that is covered in this volume.  His working through some of the contrasts between “super hero” David in Chronicles, and the David who reveals flaws in Samuel makes this a valuable tool for study.

In my own study of Chronicles I have appreciated the meaning of names in the Bible. Someone should come up with a translation that puts the English meaning by every Hebrew and Greek name. I was hoping to see such study in this commentary, but that would have added even more to its massive length.

My one disappointment in this commentary was the lack of what I have appreciated so much in the other volumes in this series: the commentary in expository form and most specifically message and application sections. With Merrill’s understanding that the Chronicler took a global view of God’s work in the past, but also in the writer’s present. I had hoped to see that fast forward into our present as well.

I give A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles by Eugene Merrill 4 out of 5 stars. For those wanting to dig deeper into a part of the Bible too often skipped, this resource provides good insights. Though it doesn’t have the expository emphasis of the other volumes Merrill provides preaching nuggets for those willing to dig.

My thanks to Kregel Books for a free copy to review. I didn’t’ have to give a positive review, just an honest one.



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Grit to Great by Linda Kaplan Thaler & Robin Koval

Guts. Resilience. Initiative. Tenacity. These are the 4 quality of Grit that are laid out in Grit to Great by Linda Kaplan Thaler & Robin Koval by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval. Their combination as well as perseverance, passion and pluck move from ordinary to extra-ordinary.

I appreciated the authors emphasis on sheer hard work. Push through and persevere. The temptation too often is to hit a road block and turn back, they inspire one to move forward.

Yet my biggest turn off to the book was stories of sheer hard work. 24 hour days. No matter what it takes. It felt as if I took their advice family would be left in the dust. Drink more caffeine make keep you awake, but will it keep you going for the long haul?

The prescriptions of grit in the book seemed to fit best in seasons of work more than a lifestyle of sustaining work. I was impressed by the accomplishments of their underdog ad agency in outworking the competition. I just didn’t see that as a healthy model for a sustainable life.

You might think by those comments I didn’t like the book, but I loved the book. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter provided inspiration. The stories in each chapter provided direction. The grit builder exercises at the end of the book provided application.

Best of all when I was done with the book I felt I had some tools for building grit in my life: stop the excuses, Do your to-do list.Have a hundred year plan with a series of goals for every five or ten years of one’s life. Prioritize the things you want to accomplish at different stages of life.

If you want to get fired up with grit, good book to read. Go to and take the grit test (I’m a grit master, but not a grit superstar).

For myself it was also important to remember the need for grit in what ultimately matters in my life — faith and family. Those areas need grit to be great even more than work accomplishments.

I give Grit to Great 4 out of 5 stars. Well-written, grit building, inspiring, but a bit workaholic at points.

My thanks to Blogging for Books for a free copy of Grit to Great to review. I wasn’t required to give a positive review just an honest one.



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Book Review: The Colson Way by Owen Strachan

Time quickly flies by and we too soon and too often forget the lessons history teaches us. I wanted to read The Colson Way by Owen Strachan because I was a fan of Chuck Colson’s life of faith and I loved the book’s tagline: Loving Your Neighbor and Living with Faith in a Hostile World.

I thought the tag line picked up a key challenge in living a winsome faith in today’s society. I admired how Chuck Colson went from political animal to faith force and all with a touch of humility and a heart committed to connect others to Christ.

However, the book had a different audience in mind. That didn’t turn out to be a bad thing, just a different perspective. Strachan’s audience is primarily but not exclusively millennials who will soon forget or will have rarely heard of the impact Chuck Colson made and the life lessons he taught that span the generations.

The Colson Way records the history of Chuck Colson’s life as well as lessons learned along the way. Though biographical, the book even more provide practical insights for application in today’s world.

Though I admired Colson form a distance, Owen Strachan provided a closer look. I grew a greater appreciation of how often out of life’s greatest failure God make His greatest impact. That was true not only for Chuck Colson’s life but also for Mary Kay Beard. She too served time in prison. She also had an incredible impact on her release. The impact, influence and love express in Angel Tree ministry in the Christmas season flows out of her greatest failure and a life of incredible faith. Surprisingly this was my favorite story in the book.

My other favorite aspect was the tracking of the faith development in Chuck Colson’s life. His journey to faith and even more his journey of a growing faith that led him to build deep roots with key faith influencers led to Colson becoming a strong apologist as the years went by.

I give The Colson Way 5 out of 5 stars. It wasn’t what I expected, but it was a valuable tool for my own faith journey. Like Owen Strachan I hope it connect with a millennial audience as well. My thanks to Book Look Bloggers and Thomas Nelson for a free copy to review. I wasn’t required to give a positive review just an honest one.

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Book Review: Straight to the Heart of the Psalms by Phil Moore

Phil Moore’s Straight to the Heart of the Psalms feels like the Cliff Notes for the Psalms with a spiritual punch. Moore provides 60 bite-sized devotional insights that covers all 150 psalms.

What I found unique in his approach was how he showed why all 150 psalms are laid out the way they are. My temptation in reading the psalms is to treat them as individual chapters with no connection to what came before or after. Moore shares why they are laid out the way they are. He left me appreciating the strength of this interconnection and a greater love for the message of God they share.




Though each bite-sized chapter is only 4-5 pages long, Moore packs insight, scholarship, and down to earth illustrations and an incredible source of quotes that illuminates the message of the psalms he covers. His overview of the psalms is not merely a peak from 30,000 feet but for everyday living.

The result is a greater appreciation of the unity and message of the psalms that goes straight to the heart. Instead of a dull commentary, Moore brings the message of the psalms alive in our day. When I finished reading I not only had a greater appreciation of the psalms, I felt I had been equipped by Phil for a greater worship and appreciation of God.

I give Straight to the Heart of the Psalms 5 out of 5 stars. Phil Moore provides a great tool for pastors, teachers and students of God’s Word. He takes complex ideas and puts them in every day language. He not only teaches the psalms, he communicates the message of the psalms that can be lived out in every day life. I look forward to other Straight to the Heart looks at books in the Bible.

My thanks to Kregel publishing for a free copy to review. I didn’t have to give a positive review just an honest one.



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Book Review: Finding Your Way Back to God by Dave and Jon Ferguson

One of my favorite stories Jesus tells is the Parable of the Waiting Father, better known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Dave and Jon Ferguson take my appreciation for that story to a new level in their book, Finding Your Way Back to God: 5 Awakenings in Your New Life.

For those who miss God or are missing out God, Finding Your Way Back to God is an invitation to discover or re-discover God’s presence at work in your life. The story of the prodigal son and his relationship with his father unfolds the 5 awakenings.

An Awakening to Longing: “There’s got to be more!”

An Awakening to Regret: “I wish I could start over.”

An Awakening to Help: “I can’t do this on my own.”

An Awakening to Love: “God loves me deeply after all.”

An Awakening to Life: “Now this is living!”

Amid the 5 awakenings is an invitation to prayer: God if you are real make yourself real to me.

What follows is not only an appreciation of Jesus’ story but of how people discovered God. Amazing! Inspiring! Encouraging! An incredible invitation to awaken to God’s presence and love for you.

The bedrock principle of the book is: God wants to be found even more than you want to find Him.

In addition to the stories and insights throughout the 16 chapters comes a 30 day wager at the end, for those curious about God and willing to invest time over 30 days to reflect on their life and how God might be present.

I give Finding Your Way Back to God 5 out of 5 stars. The book is a great reminder of God’s incredible searching love for people to be in relationship with Him. For those searching God the book opens a conversation, for those who know God already the book provides inspiration.

My thanks to Blogging for Books for a free copy to review. I wasn’t required to give a positive review, just an honest one.

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Book Review: A Fellowship of Differents by Scot McKnight

Sometimes Christianity in theory collides with Christianity in every day practical life. At those times we are tempted to give up, and simply say that is the way of the sinful world, or that’s just the way it is.

Thank you Scot McKnight and your latest book A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God’s Design for Life Together Available on, for you remind us God’s better way is still the path to follow. Scot navigates that path with grace, love, table, holiness, newness and flourishing. These 6 parts of the book weave together to paint a picture of what the Church could be and even better what it can be in Christ.

What I appreciate about Scot’s style of writing is his transparency with his past (let’s just say “differents” wasn’t high on the list in his growing up years), how he faces the challenges of the present (denominations and divisive issues), and paints a picture for a potential future (what life might be like if we embraced God’s grace in Ephesians 2 beyond verses 8 and 9 through the end of the chapter).

Scot confronts present reality and offers future vision with a driving core value of unity. Turns out Scot thinks Jesus prayer for unity in John 17 wasn’t merely wishful thinking by the Savior but a vision of what our future can be in life together.

It’s way to easy to find the issues that divide that lead to barrier building. But to build unity that flows out of grace, that builds from the means of grace in the water and around the Lord’s table.

I give A Fellowship of Differents 5 out of 5 stars. I appreciated the picture Scot paints of what the church can be. I long for that unity in heaven to reveal more of itself in life on this earth. This is a great book for pastors and church leaders who tire of what divides us and long to build a church united around Christ.

Thank you to Book Look Bloggers and Zondervan for a free copy to review. I didn’t have to give a positive review just an honest one.



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Book Review: Preaching with Accuracy by Randal Pelton

What makes a great sermon? Stories? Self-help? One big idea? Brevity? For Randal Pelton, great preaching flows out of Christ-centered interpretation of the Biblical text. Instead of fuzzy preaching, Pelton’s approach is focused to sticking with the actual interpretation the Bible states.

Pelton has a great idea in this book, to preach building on the solid foundation of God’s Word. Notice it’s foundation, not foundations. He’s not advocate of multiple interpretations of a Bible passage, but a clear interpretation that ties into the overall message of the Bible which is Christ.

Reading this book, I developed a greater appreciation for a clear understanding of the verses that are preached. Instead of a fuzzy recollection of what verses might mean I felt a greater commitment to dig deeper into the Biblical text that is to be proclaimed. The unified overall story combined with the unique story of the passage being considered provides greater clarity in the message proclaimed.

Preaching with Accuracy

What I enjoyed most about this book was Pelton’s engagement with other homiletical / preaching view points. Tim Keller, Rick Warren, Rob Bell, Haddon Robinson, Bryan Chappell and many others. This provided a greater strength to the dialogue and a greater level of processing my own preaching style. I didn’t always agree with his conclusions about individual preaching styles, but I did appreciate the engagement.

Where Pelton lost me is making something that seemed simple, feel so complicated. Textbi Conbi Canbi referring to text, context, and canon. All of a sudden it felt like a physics book, and physics books confuse me. I was also hoping that an emphasis on preaching with accuracy would have more on application that interpretation. Perhaps this book is intended for seminary classrooms, and that’s why it needs to offer a greater level of sophistication. I was left disengaged by this part of the book.

I give Preaching with Accuracy 3 out of 5 stars. The 3 stars are for the emphasis on a clear focus on what God actually says int he Bible to be interpreted correctly. The book left me with a greater value for this practice. The lost of the 2 stats is for making complicated what seemed so simple. This book is a good tool for those new to the preaching craft and new to the idea of building off the Biblical text and not the latest self-help emphasis.

My thanks to Kregel Academics for a free copy to review. I wasn’t required to give a positive review just an honest one.





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Book Review: Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game by Mark Miller

Leadership is a challenge. Growing in leadership is an investment. That’s why I loved Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game by Mark Miller. He helped me to do just that … elevate my leadership game.

Checkers is a fast paced game with interchangeable pieces. You typically think a move or two ahead at most. Chess is a multi-piece game and learning to think multiple moves ahead is key to success.

Yet a chess not checkers approach is not just a mental skill approach to better leadership, it all begins with the heart — a love for the people you serve and lead. Maximizing their individual gifts for a common goal. For myself, Chess Not Checkers taught me how to look ahead and lead others together.

In the book, Mark lays out a business parable with a mentor teaching a new CEO along the way:

1) Bet on Leadership: Growing leaders grow organizations. Develop your pieces early for maximum strategic advantage. Leaders are learners, or you are already lagging behind. That’s why this is a great book for leaders to learn to elevate their leadership game.

2) Act as One: Alignment multiplies impact. In the past year I’ve learned the power of clarity and the need for alignment. Added to that equation is also simplicity, a focus that pulls a team together.

3) Win the Heart: Engagement energizes effort. Forced moves is forced leadership. Motivating, not manipulating, moves people with a common passion and  purpose.

4) Excel at Execution: Greatness hinges on execution. To improve execution you measure what matters most. Such a measurement builds on systems not personalities. You can get a quick burst of success perhaps with a personality, but sustainable success flows from systems that work well.

I give Chess Not Checkers 5 out of 5 stars. Some books hit  you at the right time, and this one did. I love the teaching parable form of book writing, and when it teaches great lessons along the way it maximizes the gift.

My thanks to Mark for a free advanced copy to review. I wasn’t required to give a positive review, just an honest one. I am thankful how Chess Not Checkers has already elevated my leadership game, it’s your move to now read this book and pick up your leadership game.

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Book Review: The Matheny Manifesto by Mike Matheny with Jerry B. Jenkins

The right thing is seldom the easy thing” affirms Mike Matheny in his new book, “The Matheny Manifesto“. That’s why I love this book, it’s about the right thing in sports and even more in life. It’s also a book I wish I had read when my kids were younger and in sports.

I was one of those parents who yelled at referees … until I embarrassed my daughter and found the power of chewing gum to keep me watching and not yelling. Too bad I didn’t know the Matheny Manifesto — “Respect the Ump — even if He’s Blind“.

Yet what I found powerful about the book that I didn’t expect was Matheny’s humility. His favorite coach hasn’t coached in 40 years and was in basketball, not baseball. The quotes he shares from John Wooden make a powerful chapter. The fact that Matheny lifts up Wooden’s coaching even over his own, show the power of humility he applies to life. He titled chapter 9, “Don’t Think Less of Yourself, Think of Yourself Less.” He demonstrated such humility already in Chapter 6 when he writes about what a great coach looks like …. and it’s John Wooden.

This book is filled with an inside look at coaching baseball on the level of children all the way through the majors. That he develops baseball skills and even more life character in his coaching philosophy is a refreshing look at what sports can be for all ages.

For little league coaches and for parents with kids in sports or thinking about sports going old school is the best school for our day and time. I give The Matheny Manifesto 5 out of 5 stars. It was a good read for getting ready for baseball, it was a good read for getting ready for life. May the manifesto become the new standard for parents and players involved in the world of sports.

My thanks to Blogging for Books and Random House for a free copy to review. I didn’t have to give a positive review just an honest one. Thanks for an inspirational read about two of my favorite subjects: faith and sports!

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Book Review: Exploring Christian Theology, Volume I

For most people theology is a dry subject. Even for pastors most books on systematic theology (the doctrines of the Christian faith systametized from the Bible) is often extra dry. And that’s unfortunate because understanding what the Bible teaches about God as triune and understanding the nature of the value of the Bible itself is essential to knowing and living the Christian faith.

That’s why I loved reading Exploring Christian Theology Volume I: Revelation, Scripture and the Triune God edited by Nathan D. Holsteen and Michael J. Svigel. They captured the truth of Biblical teaching in an engaging way. This book will provide a great resource to liven up my own teaching/preaching especially when it comes to the Bible and to the Trinity.

Here’s why I found this book so engaging. It’s concise. There’s much to say, but they tighten their focus to key texts but not all texts in the Bible on the topic. They use every day examples as well as brief snippets of major historical teachers. They point out distortions and their dangers along the way. Best of all they give modern day examples to illustrate Biblical truth in language every day people not just seminary professors will understand. For those who want to go deeper, there are recommendations throughout the book to build your library.

With the focus on knowing God and not just knowing about God, Exploring Christian Theology provides a primer for pastor and people to use. Memory verses along the way provide building blocks for planting theological truth in deep in one’s heart. Principles to put into practice keep the focus one very day application. I look forward to other additions to this series.

I give Exploring Christian Theology 5 out of 5 stars. This book is a great resource for teaching the faith as well as those who want to learn more of the over all themes the Bible teaches. My thanks to Bethany House for a free copy to review. I wasn’t required to give a positive review of the book just an honest one.

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