Double Blessing | Book Review


I have known Mark Batterson for 30 years and read most, if not all, of his books. Double Blessing is his fifteenth book, and it combines Mark’s trademark blend of insightful biblical commentary, memorable phrasing, optimistic cheerleading to go deeper in your faith, and random biographical and scientific facts. (For example, I learned about the Avogadro Constant in chapter 4). If I could sum up the book in one sentence (Mark’s), it is this: “The secret of the double blessing is simply this: the way you get it is by giving it.” In a culture that focuses on getting, this book is a blessing.

Book Reviewed
Mark Batterson, Double Blessing: How to Get It. How to Give It (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2019).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

The Couple That Prays Together… | Influence Podcast


“What your marriage will become is determined by how you pray,” write Joel and Nina Schmidgall in their new book, Praying Circles Around Your Marriage. “Prayers for your marriage will allow you to claim God-given promises, fulfill God-given dreams for your family, and seize a God-ordained legacy for generations.”

In Episode 164 of the Influence Podcast, I’m talking to the Schmidgalls about their book, which offers great advice about prayer, marriage, and family life. I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host.

Joel and Nina Schmidgall are on staff at National Community Churchin Washington, DC. Joel serves as executive pastor as well as president of the DC Dream Center, a community center committed to inspiring and equipping youth and adults to reach their God-given potential. Nina serves as director of family ministry. The Schmidgalls live on Capitol Hill with their three kids.

Whisper | Book Review


Psalm 19 describes two forms of divine revelation. The first is general revelation: “The heavens declare the glory of God” (verse 1). The second is special revelation: “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul” (verse 7).

What strikes me most about both forms of revelation is how pervasive they are in terms of space and time. Space: the heavens’ “voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (verse 4). Time: “The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever” (verse 9). (In verses 7–10, fear is synonymous with the words law, statutes, precepts, commands, and decrees.)

God speaks everywhere and at all times, in other words. If that’s the case, then the most important spiritual question is how to hear His voice. That’s the question my friend Mark Batterson takes up in his new book, Whisper.

Mark outlines seven ways God speaks to us:

  1. Scripture
  2. Desires
  3. Doors
  4. Dreams
  5. People
  6. Promptings
  7. Pain

He admits that this is “not an exhaustive list by any means.” There is not a chapter on how God speaks through nature, which, he concedes jokingly, “seems like a sin of omission.” I personally would have liked to see a chapter on how God speaks to us through reason. Perhaps you would like to see a chapter on some other form of divine communication. “The reality?” Mark writes: “God speaks billions of dialects, including yours.”

These dialects are not equal, however. Mark describes Scripture as the “Rosetta Stone” and “The Key of Keys.” It’s the interpretive grid through which all other forms of divine communication must be run. He explains:

God will never lead us to do something that is contrary to His good, pleasing, and perfect will as revealed in Scripture. That said, Scripture doesn’t reveal the logistics. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit. Scripture doesn’t reveal whether we should go here or there. It doesn’t nuance whether we should do this, that, or the other thing. And although its truth is timeless, it doesn’t reveal now or later. Scripture gives us guidelines, but the Holy Spirit is our Guide [emphasis in original].

When I first read that statement, I thought to myself: Only a Pentecostal could write that. I don’t mean that merely in the narrow sense of denominational affiliation. (Mark is an Assemblies of God minister, as am I.) What I mean is that only a person who believes Acts 2 is paradigmatic rather than merely descriptive can be confident that God’s Spirit continues to guide us in the nitty-gritty logistics as well as the broad, biblical guidelines. That said, Whisper doesn’t engage in flights of charismatic fancy. Mark shows what Scripture itself says about God speaking to us in these seven languages.

I’ll close with a quote from the book’s Epilogue, which epitomizes the content of God’s speech:

God wants us to hear what He’s saying, and we must heed His voice. But much more than that, He wants us to hear His heart. So He whispers softer and softer so that we have to get closer and closer. And when we finally get close enough, He envelops us in His arms and tells us that He loves us.

This is good news, as well as a reminder that if you haven’t heard God’s love in God’s Word, you haven’t listened closely enough.

 

Book Reviewed
Mark Batterson, Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2017).

P.S. This review was written for InfluenceMagazine.com and appears here by permission.

P.P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Review of ‘Play the Man’ by Mark Batterson


Maleness is biological. Manhood is an achievement. Just because you’re the former doesn’t mean you’ll become the latter.

In his new book, Play the Man, Mark Batterson aims to help male readers become men. He begins by outlining seven virtues men need. He acknowledges that these virtues aren’t “exclusive to men,” but he nonetheless finds that “men lack them more often than women.”

What are the seven virtues of manhood?

  1. Tough Love: “loving others when they least expect it and least deserve it”
  2. Childlike Wonder: “true knowledge” combined with “profound humility”
  3. Will Power: “making the most of any and every situation your find yourself in”
  4. Raw Passion: “a lust for life that doesn’t settle for status or status quo”
  5. True Grit: “resilience in the face of rejection, fortitude in the face of fear”
  6. Clear Vision: “something to fight for, something to fight against”
  7. Moral Courage: “putting yourself in harm’s way to protect someone else”

Batterson illustrates these virtues with stories drawn from Scripture and history, and he applies them to everyday situations men face.

He then turns to how fathers can help their sons make the transition from boys to men. Based on his own experience, he shares how dads can make a yearlong “Discipleship Covenant” with their boys as the latter transition into adolescence. This covenant includes physical, intellectual and spiritual commitments. The capstone of this discipleship is a “Rite of Passage” that celebrates what the young man has accomplished.

As a man, I appreciated Batterson’s outline of the seven virtues of manhood. But as a dad, it was the second section of the book that captured my attention the most. If you’re like me, wondering how to help your son move from boyhood to manhood, I encourage you to check out what Batterson recommends.

American culture shuttles back and forth between the extremes of toxic masculinity and emasculated manhood. The former celebrates machismo while the latter denies any essential differences between men and women. Becoming the man God created you to be means recognizing the differences without using them to harm others. Play the Man is thus a helpful contribution to better men, better churches and a better culture.

 

Book Reviewed:
Mark Batterson, Play the Man: Becoming the Man God Created You to Be (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2017).

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P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon review page.

P.P.S. This review was written for InfluenceMagazine.com and appears here by permission.

#InfluencePodcast with Mark Batterson about ‘Play the Man’


My friend Mark Batterson has a forthcoming book: Play the Man: Becoming the Man God Created You to Be. Its release date is May 2, 2017, and its publisher is Baker Books. In this Influence Podcast, I talk to him about the book, about how biblical manhood doesn’t mean women can’t lead, and about how to help raise sons to become good men. Take a listen!

What and How to Pray for Your Kids: A Review of ‘Praying Circles Around Your Children’ by Mark Batterson


Praying Circles Around Your Children Batterson, Mark. 2012. Praying Circles Around Your Children. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

My wife and I want to be the best possible mom and dad for our son. As Christians, we understand that this includes praying regularly for him. But what should we pray? And how should we pray? That is the topic of Mark Batterson’s excellent little book, Praying Circles Around Your Children.

Mark is pastor of National Community Church in Washington DC, a prolific author, and—full disclosure—a personal friend. Praying Circles is a spinoff of his longer book on prayer, The Circle Maker, which I also highly recommend reading. (See my interview with Mark about that book here.)

Praying Circles talks about five things we ought to do when we pray for our children:

  1. Circle the promises of God
  2. Make prayer lists
  3. Create prayer mantras
  4. Form prayer circles
  5. Pray through the Bible

Each short chapter includes relevant Bible teaching, on-point personal anecdotes, and eminently quotable advice.

The small group that my wife and I attend is currently reading Praying Circles. The book is provoking great discussion among us. Most of all, it’s inspiring us to pray more for our kids. And that’s good, for as Mark writes: “Prayer turns ordinary parents into prophets who shape the destinies of their children, grandchildren, and every generation that follows.”

Praying Circles Around Your Children is a great introduction to what and how to pray for your kids. I highly recommend it.

P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

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