Hope For Ishmael

Posted: September 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

The transformation of a life changed by Christ is imgres.jpgnothing short of miraculous. This is especially true for Tass Saada. He grew up hating Jews in Saudi Arabia and then Qatar. His hatred and thirst for revenge took him to holy war in Syria under the well-know terrorist leader Yassar Arafat. However, God had other plans for Tass and brought him to America where he found a wife, a job, and (most importantly) love for a Jew named Jesus Christ. Once An Arafat Man is an amazing story that would have been hard for me to believe if I hadn’t meet Tass Saada in person. His autobiography is easy-to-read and fast paced. I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the conflicts in the Middle East, especially to those who are Muslim.

While Tass’s first book is geared toward those with a Muslim background (because that’s his story), his follow-up book, The Mind of Terror, was written with the Christian believer in mind. With his background as a terrorist, 51nPTUJoTWL._SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_.jpgand as an American citizen who was born in the Middle East and who now lives in the West Bank, Tass is probably one of the best people in the world who can help educate us on how a terrorist thinks. If you had to choose just one of his books to read, then choose Once An Arafat Man, but after you read it you will want to read The Mind Of Terror.

One extra thing that I took away from his two books that I wasn’t expecting was his views toward current tension in The Promised Land. I have come to embrace his view that both Jews and Muslims should live peacefully with one another in the land. And that this will only happen as hearts and lives are changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.


How Big is Love?

Posted: August 31, 2016 in Uncategorized

My 5-year-old and 1 year-old sons love this book! urlThe pictures are great and the meaning of the story is even better. It’s based on 1 Corinthians 13:13, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Love is bigger than anything, and my children love the comparisons that Little One makes throughout the whole book.

Unashamed by Lecrae

Posted: July 26, 2016 in Book Reviews

I’ve enjoyed Lecrae’s music from his very first album imgres.jpg(KAA-U KNOW) and have everything that he’s every made. I knew a little of his story but there was some real talk in this gut-level honest autobiography. I appreciate and understand his music so much better knowing what he was going through as he wrote his albums. I especially appreciated his thoughtful conclusions after processing traumatic events and then filtering them through a Biblical worldview. I found myself flying through the gripping stories but slowing down to highlight many poignant phrases.

This book, and his life, is a testimony to God’s amazing grace. I would encourage anyone to read it, but especially young people and especially young people in an urban environment.

Welcome to Relevant Church

Posted: February 2, 2016 in Church Planting

I’m not very hipster, cool, or relevant (at least not in the hipster-cool way). I’m ok with that. I enjoy being an uncool father of two boys who loves his wife. I’m happy being a techie geek and a book nerd. In fact, I would say that I’m generally an optimistic and positive person. However, all of those personality traits don’t translate well into being an effective church planting pastor in an urban neighborhood of working class people.

If I could only do a better job at making our church relevant, then we could really grow (I mean, succeed.) But that’s not really me. And the longer I’m in ministry the more annoyed I get at every church that isn’t like all the “other churches” because they have “contemporary music with a casual atmosphere.”

This week I came across this article about how boring “church relevance” has become. I couldn’t agree more with everything the author said. I hope this sentence becomes true for River City Church: “Our church will take their throw-offs readily, provided they are intent on following Christ.”

Just the title of this book has made me 41Q09NEMloL._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_want to read it for a long time. Last October a new expanded edition was released with added material. And now, for this month only, ChristianAudio.com is giving away the audio book(read by the author) for FREE! (Bonus: There’s a part where she sings Psalms 23, which was a pleasant surprise.)

This was a wonderful book and I’m so glad that I finally made time to listen/read it. Rosario Butterfield was a tenured, lesbian English professor at Syracuse University. After writing a letter to the editor against Promise Keepers, she was befriended by a local pastor who invited her to dinner. Over time, as they became friends, she heard the gospel and was saved. Her journey from anti-Christian to open-mindedness to salvation to pastor’s wife and home-school parent is an amazing story of God’s grace. I highly recommend this book to all non-Christians who are open to considering the truth claims of the Bible and to all Christians who aren’t sure how they could befriend someone who has a completely different worldview. What an amazing story of God’s grace.

Get this audio book for free while you can and listen as she tells her story in her words.

PS: I just learned that she had a new book released in July of this year called Openness Unhindered. I’ve heard that it’s even better than this one, so I’m looking forward to reading it as well.


Posted: August 18, 2014 in Book Reviews

Unbroken by Laura Hildenbrand is the amazing story of the life of Louis Zamperini. imgresHe was a juvenile delinquent who became a high school and college track star with national records. He went to the Berlin Olympics in 1936 and was on his way to being the first man to run a sub-4 minute mile when WWII broke out. He flew on a bomber as the target man and did missions over the Japanese Empire surviving air battles that he should have died in. While on a search mission his plan crashed in the middle of the Pacific Ocean leaving him and two men stranded on rubber lifeboats. After surviving near starvation, shark attacks, and Japanese machine gun attacks the two remaining men were picked up by the Japanese and taken to Execution Island. After enduring humiliation and torture he was taken to POW camp. It’s hard to believe anyone could survive the cruel and dehumanizing torture by the Japanese. (Check the survival rates and life expectancy of POW’s in the Pacific theater verses any other front in any other war.) But Louis did survive and returned to America as war hero. However, the good times didn’t last long and he almost lost his new life to alcoholism. 

Throughout his life Louis met many famous people such as Adolf Hitler, Fidel Castro, Frank Sinatra, and Ronald Reagan, but his life didn’t change until he met Jesus Christ. God saved Louis at a Billy Graham crusade in Los Angeles where Louis realized that life is more than just surviving and being a good person. Even the “best” person is a sinner in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. Louis received God’s forgiveness and then was able to forgive those who tortured him for so long. He traveled as a missionary and preacher of the gospel and even returned to Japan to share Christ with his former captors. 

I liked the book by Laura Hildenbrand, but I also enjoyed Louis’ autobiography even more. It’s called Devil At My Heels and is a more personal view of his life. I really appreciated the final 20% of his autobiography because he spent a lot more time talking about his life after his conversion, which Hildenbrand did not cover nearly enough. If you have read Unbroken, and want to learn more about what he considered the most interesting and important part of his life, then buy or rent Louis Zamperini’s autobiography. 

The Truth of the Cross

Posted: May 19, 2014 in Uncategorized


Christians actually do not celebrate Easter only once a year, but instead gather to worship Jesus Christ as our risen Lord, Savior, and King every Sunday. In addition to reading Scripture passages about the crucifixion and resurrection leading up to Easter, I have often found it helpful to read good books as well. One year, I read D.A. Carson’s book Scandalous and I highly recommend it. (It’s even on sale right now for $2.99 on Kindle.) This year, I picked up R.C. Sproul’s book, The Truth of the Cross. I have really liked previous books by Sproul and so I was excited to read this one as well…. I was not disappointed.

The book is really an explanation of the gospel with an emphasis on what was accomplished on the cross by Jesus. This is so important today because many people, even so-called Christians, do not believe in justification by faith alone. Sproul says, “It’s not even justification by good works or by a combination of faith and works. The prevailing notion of justification in Western culture today is justification by death. It’s assumed that all one has to do to be received into the everlasting arms of God is to die.”

Scripture teaches that all people are sinners and that we all deserve the wrath of God (Romans 3). This is just. Human beings pay lip-service to justice, but when we are the guilty party we cry out for mercy. God doesn’t ignore sin. God doesn’t avoid sin. God hates sin and He will pour out his wrath on sin. Sproul’s money quote is that we have committed “cosmic treason” against a holy God. Jesus Christ became sin for us on the cross so that we might become the righteousness of God.(2 Corinthians 5:21). That is amazing! Sproul puts it this way: “Christ’s supreme achievement on the cross is that He placated the wrath of God, which would burn against us were we not covered by the sacrifice of Christ.”

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It will help you see sin more clearly, which will help you appreciate the cross more fully, and in turn, you will worship God more fully.