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This book by Chip Ingram delves into some of the touchiest subjects imaginable: sex, homosexuality, abortion, politics, right and wrong, and the environment.

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highway to hell

In Highway to Hell: The Road Where Childhoods Are Stolen, freelance journalist Matt Roper tells of the horrific child prostitution problem in Brazil, specifically along the 1,500-mile BR-116 corridor. The stories of numerous young girls – some as young as nine years old – who tragically sell their bodies to provide for their families are truly grotesque, but what is worse is that the stories told by Roper represent only a small fraction of the thousands of girls who are being exploited sexually in Brazil.

Highway to Hell tells of parents and grandparents who encourage or even force their daughters to stand by the roadside to sell themselves to long-haul truckers in order to provide for their families, of entire communities that depend on the income from child prostitution, of a government that tries to sweep the problem under the carpet, of girls who are so steeped in this culture that they don’t even recognize it as wrong, of pimps and brothels who exploit these girls (in some cases holding them hostage), and of the men who purchase these girls’ services. Praise the Lord, it also tells of the few but very important men and women who are working diligently to save these girls.

This book was eye-opening. I had never imagined that the child prostitution problem was so bad in Brazil, and while I know people whose parents did terrible things to them as children, I never could have imagined a parent or grandparent doing some of the things in this book.

I cried numerous times while reading Highway to Hell and I challenge you not to. There is a strand of hope running throughout the book, though: people such as Matt, Dean, Rita, Abigail, Fabio, and others who God is using to make a difference. You’ll cry about that as well. :-)

I promise you that you will not enjoy this book. You will, however, be changed and that is a very good thing.

smith and cottrell

I know that this is no way to begin a review, but I can’t hold it back: these are two beautiful little books!

In The Power of an Ordinary Prayer, Grammy and Dove Award-winning singer/songwriter Michael W. Smith invites readers to “enter into the heart of prayer and discover how the joy of God’s transformation can truly change your world.” He begins by introducing readers to the value of praying blessings over those we love and then spends the rest of the book dissecting a specific prayer that he prays into six distinct blessings. Each chapter begins with a snippet from the prayer followed by scripture, quotes, and stories that delve further into the blessing. Throughout each chapter readers are encouraged to stop and reflect as well.

In He Knows Your Name: Surprised by God When You Least Expect It, Dove Award-winning singer/songwriter Travis Cottrell reminds readers that God is the hope, strength, and deliverance that each of us needs so desperately every day. He encourages us to surrender ourselves fully to God and in so doing experience His presence like never before. He does this through quotations and stories from scripture, from his own life, and from others. Each chapter begins with a scripture and ends with quotes, a prayer, and questions for reflection and application.

Each of these beautiful books would make a wonderful gift for any Christian or, for that matter, anyone else. Each would also be an excellent choice as a personal devotional. Buy them today – you won’t regret it and the truth found within them just might change your life.

Daughter of Jerusalem

She was the first person to see her resurrected Savior, a sinner whom Jesus cleansed of seven demons, and one of the women who followed and supported Jesus and the Twelve Apostles, but who was Mary Magdalene? What was her story? In her latest novel, Daughter of Jerusalem, New York Times bestselling author Joan Wolf puts a story to the person of Mary Magdalene. This first-person tale begins when, at a young age, Mary is sent from her family to live with her aunt and ends after Pentecost.

This is the first Joan Wolf book that I read and I am so glad I did. The novel is easy to read and utterly engrossing – I didn’t want to put it down. I cried at times while reading of Mary’s hardships and rejoiced in her triumphs. I will definitely be reading more of Joan Wolf’s writings. I’ll also be learning more about the Biblical account of Mary Magdalene. The book has me intrigued and I want to learn more about this important woman.

I love historical fiction because it weaves well-known historical characters and occurrences into the story. It’s fun to see how the author gives life to the Biblical account by putting names and relationships to people who we know little about from the Bible, such as Fulvius Petrus, an acquaintance of Mary’s that turns out to be the centurion that had the faith to ask Christ to heal his servant from a distance. However, it is important to remember that Daughter of Jerusalem is a work of fiction. The Bible gives us no reason to suppose that Mary participated in many of the events that the author places her at, nor does it give us many details about her life. It also doesn’t explain her political leanings. I found it startling that the author blends Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany (the sister of Lazarus and Martha) into a single person. I had always thought that these were two different people, but after reading the book I spent some time researching and discovered that there are some who believe that they may be the same person (though many scholars do not). The author provides a believable explanation of how Mary of Magdala could also be Mary of Bethany and the truth is that we really don’t know.

This is a fantastic book and I highly recommend it to any Christian. It is a wonderful story, makes some great points, and will cause you to open your Bible and learn more.

Want to read it? Worthy Publishing invited me to review Daughter of Jerusalem as part of their blog tour for the book and has given me a copy to give away to one of my readers! Enter below. Good luck!

By the time you’re finished with this book…you’ll not only recognize love for all that it is, but break through the fog of your relationships into the light of an amazing new day for you and for those you love the most.

Thus ends the introduction to Dr. Tim Clinton and Pat Springle’s new book, Break Through: When to Give In, How to Push Back. A lofty promise indeed, but one upon which Clinton and Springle deliver.

In the book, the authors give insight into unhealthy relationships, such as codependency and abusive relationships. Why does a wife make excuses for an alcoholic husband? Why does a father continue to bail out a deadbeat daughter? The answer may surprise you.

Using biblical insight and real-life examples, Clinton and Springle offer clear explanations for the real causes of unhealthy relationships and a clear path to forming healthy relationships. Each of the easily digestible chapters ends with a series of questions designed to make us think about our own relationships. The book also includes a guide for groups and classes who are looking to make the most of the book’s teaching.

To say that I found this book enlightening would be an understatement. It has caused me to think about my own relationships – both healthy and unhealthy – and to start to address the areas of concern. I found the writing to be very easy to read, the print perfect for my lately very tired eyes, and on top of that I love the feel of the book jacket – very soft and nice to hold.

Whether you recognize unhealthy relationships in your life or not, I highly recommend this book. You and your relationships will be changed for the better by reading it.

The book is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other fine print and electronic book retailers.

After having several people ask me about how I spread my posts to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn throughout the day, I decided to create a video explaining how I use Buffer, a tool that makes posting to social media on a regular basis super easy. The video is below. Please watch and comment. If you find it helpful, please share the video as well!

Thanks for watching! You can sign up for Buffer and get an extra space in your Buffer by visiting http://bufferapp.com/r/4ca49 (disclosure: I will get an extra space as well when you use that link). The Buffer for Chrome extension mentioned in the video, which enables Twitter and Google Reader posting to Buffer is available at https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/noojglkidnpfjbincgijbaiedldjfbhh.

In Enemies of the Heart: Breaking Free from the Four Emotions That Control You, pastor Andy Stanley calls readers to break free from the destructive power of guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy. These four forces, says Stanley, have the power to destroy your home, career, and friendships if left unchallenged. They take over your life, destroy your relationships, and leave you and those around you hurting. In this book, Stanley provides practical advice, straight from the Bible, to help you take back control and restore your relationships.

Enemies of the Heart is exactly what I needed. It is both convicting and refreshing. The author uses a thoroughly enjoyable writing style with fun anecdotes to unwrap, dissect, and bring light to the sources of our problems. The book is nothing if not direct – no skirting around the issues here – and yet unlike with many similar books I never felt as if the author were being self-righteous or accusatory. After describing the problems and helping us to see the problems in our own lives, Stanley provides powerful insight into how to free ourselves from the bondage found in these four emotions.

Please do yourself and those around you a favor and buy this book, but don’t stop there. Devour it. Live it. Use it to change your life.

In Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work, pastor Tom Nelson offers a new perspective on work, providing a look at God’s purposes for work in a way that is both practical and theologically based. He helps readers to make the most of their God-given vocations and to treat their work as God intended, as acts of worship.

I really enjoyed this book and was truly blessed by it. Nelson gives a look at this important topic that is both refreshing and convicting. He is not afraid to debunk common myths nor to reveal his own shortcomings and he uses biblical accounts as well as modern-day stories to deliver his message. He covers topics such as why work is more important than we commonly believe and how to make the most of our “mundane” work and many, many more.

If you would like a fresh perspective on a healthy work ethic and theology of work for Christians, I highly recommend this book.

I recently received a distressing email from Javed Irshad, who, with his family, runs a Christian ministry in Pakistan, reaching out to Pakistani children. Here is what Javed shared:

Dear Brother Nate,

Christians in Pakistan are in “grievous distress” as large swathes of Pakistan are once again submerged in water. Serious flooding has forced thousands of people into emergency camps where facilities are poor and they are at risk of catching diseases such as malaria, dysentery and dengue fever. It comes exactly one year after flood waters covered vast swathes of Pakistan last summer.

Some areas were seeing worse flooding than last year, with the equivalent of an entire monsoon season’s worth of rain falling in just a few days. It warned that Christians were particularly vulnerable because they already live in poverty and is often overlooked in the distribution of aid. We are terribly sad to see the destruction and poor condition of the people affected by heavy rains.

We have noticed and seen that Christians are being deprived of the help, relief and support that other people are getting.

Our Ministry has launched an emergency appeal to provide food, clean water and hygiene products to Pakistani Christians caught up in the floods and as I shared with you that many of Christian families are staying with us.

In this latest calamity our brothers and sisters in Pakistan have no way to help themselves, and other organisations may never come to their aid.

“They are crying out to us for their very lives. Will you please help us help them to survive?”

You can learn more about Javed and his ministry by visiting  http://newlife.id.au/little-disciples-of-jesus/. Photos of the flood relief team can be found here. Oxfam America has additional information about the crisis in Pakistan. At the bottom of this post is a video with further information.

When I spoke with Javed recently, he had 27 people living with him and they were in dire need of funds to purchase food and will soon be in need of warm clothing as well. Please join with me in helping Pakistani flood victims. You can email Javed at thelittledisciples@msn.com or find him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Javypk to learn more about how to help. A little bit of help can go a long way.

Review: Lit! by Tony Reinke

By Nate LaClaire —  November 8, 2011 — 2 Comments

In Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books, former journalist Tony Reinke offers a theology for reading as well as practical suggestions for reading. Using scripture and a great deal of additional research, Reinke provides Christians with a deep, multifaceted look at the topic of reading.

Pastor C. J. Mahaney’s foreword does a thorough job at setting up the book by describing the important part that reading has played in his life and Christian walk. Reinke then begins the book by explaining what the title of the book (Lit!) represents: while short for “literature,” it also reminds us that “the glow of God’s creative power is all around us” (pg. 16) and, most importantly, emphasizes the fact that Christian readers are illuminated by the light of the gospel (2 Cor. 4:4). Therefore, says Reinke, we see God’s truth in all literature. The author then dives into the topic, covering everything from the biblical foundation for reading, to the benefits of reading non-Christian books, to Reinke’s own formula for determining what he reads, to finding time to read. He ends the book with a look at the five marks of a healthy reader.

If you’ve read my blog before, you probably have already determined that this book covers a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I love to read, although I go through periods where I fail to set aside proper time to do so. I found the theological portion of the book enlightening. Reinke makes many excellent points for why to read a wide variety of literature and how our faith relates to our reading. I also found the practical portion of the book incredibly helpful. His tips on reading fiction, reading non-fiction, choosing books, setting aside time to read, taking notes, and many other topics are very useful.

I urge you to read this book whether you enjoy reading or not. If you don’t enjoy reading, perhaps it will help you to find enjoyment in the practice and to grow in your faith as a result of it. If you already enjoy reading, I think you’ll walk away from the experience ready to grow your love of reading and with a new appreciation for the importance of it. I know I did.