Friday, April 29, 2011

Book Review: The Greener Grass Conspiracy


I don't know about you, but I am one of those people who loves a good conspiracy theory. Judging from the movie industry, I'd say I'm not alone. Perhaps that is why Stephen Altrogee and Crossway chose to title this new release The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence. What sets this book apart from those movies is that this book moves beyond theory, into reality.

"What is this conspiracy?" you may ask. "It's a conspiracy between the world, my heart, and Satan to steal my happiness" (pg. 12). It's serious stuff, my friends, with implications in this life and the next, but don't think that it makes for a boring book. God has blessed Stephen Altrogee with a great sense of humor and it shines through on almost every page of this book without detracting from the important message within. (You even have to make sure you read all of the footnotes because the humor is stashed there as well. ;)

Whether you know it or not, you and I are at war.

"When we don't get what we so desperately want, we throw the adult version of a temper tantrum. Our passions rage within us. We become angry at God and discontent with life. We grumble and complain, and happiness appears to be out of reach. We become a casualty of war" (pg. 19).

Do you want to avoid becoming "a casualty of war"? Do you want to know the secret of happiness and contentment? The answer may not be what you think. Learning the truth can be a lot like major surgery, but in the long run, embracing the truth will save your life.

The Greener Grass Conspiracy is deep, yet the message is articulated clearly. Altrogee has spent time learning from the Puritans (largely Jeremiah Burroughs and Thomas Watson) and has taken the best of their ideas and made them accessible to a new generation. Most importantly, this book is Biblical and Altrogee keeps his focus on the Good News of Jesus Christ and all that he has done for us.

Satan leads us to believe that God is holding out on us.

"The truth is, God will never withhold from us. The greatest, irrefutable proof of God's generosity is Calvary. Look at the beloved Son, ridiculed by the masses, beaten beyond recognition, hanging upon a cross, slowly suffocating, dying for sinners like you and me. God gave up what was most precious to him so that he could save sinners who hated him. If God was willing to do that, won't he also give us every good thing that we need? In Romans 8:32 Paul puts it this way: 'He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?' (pg. 52)

The best way to fight sin in your life is to learn and meditate on the truth of God's Word. Altrogee writes:

"Satan invites me to find satisfaction in something other than God. It doesn't matter if it's pornography or community service, as long as it's not God" (pg. 13).

Do you believe that God is all-satisfying? Do you believe that He has control over all that happens and uses it for the good of those who love Him? What you believe to be true about God radically shapes how you live your life. Don't be deceived! Know the truth! Uncover the "conspiracy" with Altrogee in this excellent book; it can change your life.

(P.S. If you've ever whined or complained or been unhappy about anything, this book is for you. Basically, this is a book for us all. ;)

Want to read another review of this title? Becky has composed a great post @ Caffeinated Theology.

*Many thanks to Crossway for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Book Review: Practicing Affirmation

My husband used to tell me that I ought to purchase books printed on yellow paper in order to save the highlighter. I have since resorted to marking books with pens or pencils so that I can write notes liberally in the margins as thoughts or questions arise. However, Practicing Affirmation is a book that could easily have been printed on yellow paper. I marked almost every page of this book (most often in hearty agreement with the author ;). With endorsements by John Piper, C.J. Mahaney, and Nancy Leigh DeMoss, this is no surprise.

While there are many books on the market that focus on encouraging and praising others, I think there are a number of characteristics that make this book unique, God-honoring, and worthwhile. Most importantly, Sam Crabtree's emphasis throughout the book is on God's glory. "God is glorified in us when we affirm the work he has done and is doing in others" (pg. 12). Mr. Crabtree urges readers to word their commendation of others carefully so that it "steals nothing from the glory of God..." (pg. 15).

Furthermore, Crabtree makes an appropriate and important distinction between God-centered affirmation and man-centered affirmation:

"Western culture's emphasis on self-esteem has resulted in a yawning response to the gospel. The main problem the gospel solves is God's wrath toward sinners, but if one's inflated self esteem is telling him he's not all that bad really, then why is God so uptight" (pg. 94)?

Crabtree writes: "...affirmation, especially if it isn't God-centered, can have a hardening effect" (pg. 95). In many ways, our words can be used to draw others toward God or to push them away. Crabtree explains that affirmation is a means to the end of proclaiming the Gospel and that we gain a hearing from others when we are not constantly negative.

There is much more that could be said about this book. In sum, Practicing Affirmation is insightful and practical. The final chapter lists "100 Affirmation Ideas for Those Who Feel Stuck." This is a helpful tool. You may realize that you are already doing a lot of the things on the list as most of them aren’t hard or time-consuming. If you want to learn “how to refresh people with affirmations that are explicitly Christ-honoring” (pg. 133), this book is an excellent place to begin. Sam Crabtree helps the reader understand that "Death and life are in the power of the tongue…" (Proverbs 18:21). What you say matters!

*Many thanks to Crossway for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

Monday, April 11, 2011

FBS Giveaway

You may wish to


I'm not familiar with the Home Ec. title, but the rest of them are phenomenal.
I'll post a review of Practicing Affirmation later this month.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Book Review: Desiring God

Read Through Desiring God with John Piper

"This book aims to persuade you that The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever" (pg. 18).

Piper explains how he came to this realization and the foundation upon which it stands. He then seeks to demonstrate how various aspects of the Christian life are entwined with our pursuit of pleasure beginning with conversion and covering worship, love for others, Scripture, prayer, money, marriage, missions, and suffering. This Twenty-fifth Edition also includes a helpful group study guide.

It typically takes me a long time to read books by John Piper, and Desiring God was no exception. I think half of what John Piper communicates may "go over my head". However, I find that wading through the portions of Piper which elude me in order to glean the nuggets of wisdom which God uses to transform my life is beneficial. Piper's work is extremely thought-provoking; one must not read it lightly.
Piper is poetic. He paints helpful word pictures. For example: "If the pump of love runs dry, it is because the pipe of prayer isn't deep enough" and "So we see repeatedly in Scripture that prayer is a walkie-talkie for warfare, not a domestic intercom for increasing our conveniences" (pg. 178). I love how Piper writes with a sense of urgency, reminding us that we are engaged in a life and death war.

Again and again, God uses John Piper's writing to stir my passions afresh to pursue the spiritual disciplines, not out of a sense of duty, but for the sake of my joy and the joy of others. Read Piper carefully, with your Bible in hand, and consider what he has to say. You may not agree with it all, but you will likely come away with some valuable insights as a result.

*Many thanks to WaterBrook Multnomah for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

If you liked this review, please consider rating it so that I'll have access to more books by this publisher. Thank you!

Book Review: Voyage with the Vikings

Cover: Voyage with the Vikings

Voyage with the Vikings is twaddle. (I mean this in the nicest possible way.) This book is overly simplistic in it's language, plot, historical elements, and Christian message. It lacks rich, descriptive language; abounds in sentence fragments; and has an incredibly predictable plot. A child could spend ten minutes perusing a picture book on the Vikings and glean just as much factual, historical information.

Perhaps the most disappointing facet of this book was its "Christian" message. It mentions Jesus Christ and God. It states that there is one God and references "the God of the cross" (pg. 94). The moral of the book is that Christians should be kind to their enemies: "Erik was mean to you. But you showed him kindness. That's just like God. He shows us kindness even when we don't deserve it" (pg. 106). However, there is no clear presentation of the Gospel in this book, and it is devoid of Scripture.

If you're looking for a book your child can read easily that is "clean", you'll probably enjoy this book. However, if you're trying to avoid twaddle, steer clear of this book. There is much better reading material on the market! A child may enjoy this book just as a child enjoys junk food, but a steady diet of this sort of writing will ruin a child's appetite for fine literature and deep, thought-provoking writing.

*Many thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

Words from the wise:
"It is far from my intention to depreciate the value or deny the usefulness of books, without exception: a few well-chosen treatises, carefully perused and thoroughly digested, will deserve and reward our pains; but a multiplicity of reading is seldom attended with a good effect.

Besides the confusion it often brings upon the judgment and memory, it occasions a vast expense of time, indisposes for close thinking, and keeps us poor, in the midst of seeming plenty, by reducing us to live upon a foreign supply, instead of labouring to improve and increase the stock of our own reflections."

- John Newton in his letter "A Plan of a Compendious Christian Library" (Works of John Newton, Volume 1, 236). Paragraphing added by Desiring God