Book Review: Found: God’s Will by John MacArthur

Book Review: Found: God’s Will by John MacArthur

41z4pv7JWnLA coworker gave me Found: God’s Will by John MacArthur after I spoke with that coworker about a frustration I have.  I say have because it’s still a frustration of mine, but I’ll explain as I talk about this review.

I was sitting in his office, telling him how much I’d be willing to do God’s will if I just knew what, exactly, he wanted.

I remember reading Samuel, where David would just ask God, “Shall I attack?” and God would answer back, “Attack, and I’ll deliver them into your hands.” (I’m working from pure memory here, so I can’t offer the book and verse).

I remember in Exodus where God spoke to Moses.

I’d read this and think about how much easier it would be if God would just give me a direct order. 

In fairness, it’s not as if I’m that good (or any good) at following the direct orders I know.  I’m human, therefore I sin.  But I do genuinely want to know the decisions I make are the ones God wants me to make. 

My coworker told me about a book.  He handed it to me a few days later.  I picked up the Audible version because I knew I could get to it sooner, but I’m glad to have they physical edition to refer to.

What this book does is explain a few key principles about God’s will.  The premise is we can’t understand the smaller details of God’s will and purpose for our lives if we’re not following the basic tenants that exist in scripture. Then he breaks those tenants down into five simple categories.

John-MacArthur-Primary-2I feel I’d be violating Mr. MacArthur’s copyright if I summarized all five points. I also feel like he does it so well, my summary would fall short.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand what God wants. 

With that said, I appreciated the summary.  I value the clear, direct commands that he pulls not from his opinions, but from scripture, which is God’s word. 

That list has become one that I pray on every morning before I start my day. I find it helps me get my mind right. It helps me focus my attention and give me purpose through the day.  I do more than is on the list, but I try as well as any man of flesh can, to check off my choices and actions against that list.  I often find areas on which I fell short when I look back at some things and compare it to the list. It’s not a burning bush, but it helps me feel confident that I’m on the right track, or it helps me adjust my behavior if I don’t think my actions line up.

While I won’t summarize the whole list, I will posit an opinion on one of the five tenants of God’s will as listed by Mr. MacArthur.

“God wants you to suffer.”

If you’re anything like me, you just read those words and said, “What now?”

I promise I wasn’t ready for that phrase when I heard it.  But when I reflected on that segment and thought about the scripture, I adapted my thinking.  I hope it’s not out of line with Mr. MacArthur, but I think this interpretation is a bit more in line than the demand for suffering and more in line with what that suffering is.  This is my interpretation, and I’d defer to Mr. MacArthur in pretty much any scriptural discussion.  Since I can’t sit and chat with him directly on the matter, I can only posit how I better understood that phrase after reading and contemplating the information.

I’d like to suggest the following phrasing:  “God wants you to know that if you follow his will and live as he wants you to live, that you will suffer.”

When I think of that phrase and read the rest of Mr. MacArthur’s segment on that tenant of God’s will, I simply think it puts a focus on the warning more than the demand.  To explain more, I don’t think God wants us to suffer, but rather understands that those who follow his will and live as we’re supposed to live will encounter persecution and suffering.  The demand then implies that if we follow the first four tenants of God’s Will (which are far less ambiguous or controversial, that suffering will be the natural result.

So when I say my morning prayer, I pray this: “God, if I should suffer, let it be for your sake. Let it be because I am following your will, for if I know this, I will take heart and work harder to endure.  Whatever the cause of my suffering, Lord, let me endure it. Grant me the strength to perceiver. Let my enduring be a testament to my love, respect and fear of you.”

religion-2927802_960_720I’m still developing and growing in my faith, so it’s possible I’m wrong.  It’s possible I just don’t like the idea that God wants me to suffer, and perhaps he does literally want me to suffer.  At this point, however, I don’t think that. I think (and I’m just a guy here folks) that I’m supposed to live right and understand that the world will pressure me to turn to the desires of the flesh or temptation.  I also think that any suffering I encounter (if, and only if, I’m living right) will be for my own good and for God’s greater purpose.

Regardless of that one segment, I want to make it clear that this book gave me a better sense of purpose. It gave me something to focus my energy on, and these tenants make me believe that  if my focus is on those things, the rest will take care of itself.  It’s been a few months since I’ve read this particular book.  My life isn’t perfect.  I still suffer.  When I remember this book, I take heart in that.  I can better analyze the cause of my suffering.  Am I suffering because I’m doing God’s will?  Am I suffering for his sake? If so, stay the course. Believe that I’m doing what’s right and know that I’m building my treasure in Heaven.  If I’m suffering, and I realize it’s because I’m denying God’s will or disobeying his commands, I correct my actions.  While I am prone to counting and gathering statistical data , I haven’t kept track of the ration of my suffering against God’s will or my disobedience.  What I can say though is I hurt a little less.  When I correct myself, I notice things get much better much more quickly.

I still struggle with some things, but I admit those struggles have more to do with the fear that what I might want to do isn’t what God wants me to do more than my understanding of his purpose for my life.

If you’re interested in Christianity, if you are a Christian, and you want to be better in your faith or you want to walk closer with God, this book is a quick, easy-to-understand,  summary of his will as stated in scripture.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

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Book Review: For Steam and Country by Jon del Arroz

Book Review: For Steam and Country by Jon del Arroz
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This image was taken from Amazon.com for review purposes under Fair Use Doctrine.

First off, before we get to my regular Wednesday review, please let me wish you all a happy Fourth of July. I love my country, which was one of the main reasons I served it for ten years as an active-duty Sailor, and I still serve as a DOD instructor. God bless our country, bless our service members, and may we hold true to the principles under which our great nation was formed.

Spolier Free Summary: For Steam and Country by Jon del Arroz is a story about Zaira’s life is thrown off course when her dead father’s will places her on the deck of the last remaining air-ship in the empire. She’s face with the choice to leave the life she thought she’d have or embrace the life her father led, the same life that took him from her. Her life grows even more difficult when she encounters the Wyranth Empire, the empire behind her father’s death. This was my June Book Cover of the Month winner.

Character:  I’d say this was the strength of this story. There were issues I had with it, but the characters are proactive (for the most part). Zaira does seem to be a pretty standard character for YA novels. She’s the unsure, female on her own fighting to prove she’s tough enough. The trope is more of my problem than the execution of the character. My frustration is that Zaira seems to pretty much go with things.  She does however, start coming to her own in the book, which gives her a pretty decent character arc. Constant reminders of how like her father she is annoyed me as a reader even more than her as a character. I felt like there was a missed opportunity here since her father had been absent for much of her life. Rather than investigate that potential conflict, the book focuses mostly on plot-driven events.

Arroz
This image of Mr. Arroz was taken from his webiste for review purposes under Fair Use Doctrine. 

Description: Other than the non-stop references to her similarities to her father’s physical traits, the description of this book is, what I feel, good for a steampunk novel like this. As always, I stress I’m not one who loves a lot of detail in description. For steampunk lovers, there might not be enough of those little, minute details the genre loves so much, but I wasn’t bothered at all.  I saw what I needed to, and my imagination took care of the rest.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Story Review: Moth to Flame from Posh Bytes by C. Rose

51RWebyS42L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Spoiler Free Summary:  In Moth to Flame by C. Rose, Clover Moth gets in over his head as he’s set up to take the fall for hacking his company. His only possible source of help? Valerian is a mysterious bar owner who gives Moth a path to follow that will only make his situation worse. Moth must convince Valerian to help him get out of the situation she put him in.

Character:  Moth is the person who shows us the story, but it’s Valerian who grows in this particular story. I honestly wish I had more from this character and a bit more from this story. It felt a tad rushed to me. It wasn’t bad, but I found myself wanting a bit more development from the characters.

Exposition: This probably went back to Rose’s norm for this anthology. It wasn’t bad, but there were some data-dump sections that I wish would have been different. They weren’t excessive, but they were notable.

Worldbuilding: This story does expand a bit more on the lore of this world.  It introduces another dimension that I wish I’d had another story on. I won’t detract from this anthology because I wanted a few more stories, but this story took the most dramatic turn in this regard. Valerian’s origins were what fascinated me, and I wish I had more.

C.-Rose-276x300Dialogue: This was probably the main narrative device for Rose in this story. It drove most of the plot and events. It wasn’t stilted, but the dialogue was why I felt most of the plot was a bit forced. Rather than show things that could be translated visually, the characters talked. It’s a technique a lot of people do.  I just wish I had more actions and demonstrations to go along with the talking.

Description:  Rose got a bit more visceral.  Where the other stories saw a jump in physical descriptions, this story opens up some other senses that give this story a bit more of a realistic feeling.

Overall:  This story put ponderous end to Posh Bytes, but this book still sits high on my list of books read this year so far, even after all the books I’ve read after. I still stand behind my opinion that this book has a very “Hugo” worthy feel to it. It’s great for speculative fiction fans who like a bit of morality in their scifi. I was glad to meet the author and to have read this book.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Story Review: Clover Fields Forever from Posh Bytes by C. Rose

Story Review: Clover Fields Forever from Posh Bytes by C. Rose

51RWebyS42L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Spoiler Free Summary:  In Clover Fields Forever by C. Rose, Clover is looking for money to pay the rent.  The problem is she’s a shopaholic narcissist who’s out of money.  Lucky for her, Honey, (previously seen briefly in Eye of the Beholder) has some.  Unlucky for her, Honey’s had it with her freeloading sister. Clover’s boss is fed up. Her landlord is fed up.  She has to find a way to make it on her own.

Character:  This story was probably my least favorite in the anthology. Clover’s arc wasn’t bad. In fact, it was expertly written.  Where Supernova had a glimpse of hope and a tragic resolution, this story is tragic because of Clover and her actions. It’s not my least favorite because it’s poorly written; it’s my least favorite because it’s an expertly written story of a character who tragically refuses to learn.  Some may say that makes it bad, but that’s more a matter of opinion. A lot of readers these days want to see the character evolve, and so they judge a story by whether or not the characters do.  Some times people don’t change, and that’s unfortunate.  This is a story I’d like to discuss with other authors after reading to evaluate the options and what could have been done.  For me, I simply hated (and I’m supposed to) Clover.

Exposition: Strangely, where her exposition is normally a consistent knock on Rose, in this case, the exposition supported the theme.  Readers have to see if they buy off on the theme. Those who do will appreciate this story. Those who don’t will not like it.

Worldbuilding: It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed one of these stories (I review stories in the same order I read them).  With that in mind, I’d like to mention again how much I enjoy several stories in one setting (or planet). Add to that some clever character appearances, and I’m impressed. Honey’s role is larger here, but the reader can expect things from her because of her role in Beholder.

C.-Rose-276x300Dialogue: This might have been a bit forced at times, but it was never too bad.  Dialogue and character are linked, and when one doesn’t like the character, he tends to be annoyed by the dialogue as well.  There were some spots where the dialogue felt like exposition, but it never lingered or dragged the story down.

Description:  This was solid. Rose gave detail on the things I needed to see clearly, but she didn’t beat me to death with specifics that my mind could just as easily fill in. The last few stories got stronger in this area.

Overall:  Lest favorite story of the anthology or not, this is still one of the best books I’ve read this year. While my affection for this story was low, my appreciation for the quality of the writing remains as high as ever. This is a good anthology for fans of speculative fiction, especially those who spend time thinking about the vanity in today’s world.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Book Review: Jon Archer: A Comedy by J.B. Taylor

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Cover image of Jon Archer was taken from it’s Amazon buy page.

Spoiler Free Summary:  In Jon Archer: A Comedy by J.B. Taylor, Jon is a man trying to get home to sleep when he ends up on a most unusual train (among other things). He runs into a talking goat, a British-speaking spider, and a space man. In this chuckle-worthy, ridiculous story, the eclectic cast of characters works together so they can each find their way home.

Character: This isn’t the sort of story you read for deep character arc. Jon isn’t an emotional guy. He’s just a poor bastard who gets thrown in a blender of circumstance. His reactions to the ridiculousness of the situation is one of the main things I found funny.

Exposition: Surprisingly for a story this short (I think it was about an hour), there is some exposition front-loaded into the story. The narrator (I listen to this on audible) uses the opportunity to let his tone of voice deliver the humor. He doesn’t break the fourth wall, but he does make sure the reader knows right up front that this story is pure fun.  Some of the timing is a bit off (the timing of the jokes), but after the first scene, things take off in a hurry.

Worldbuilding: I have to admit, this didn’t make any sense. I don’t think it was supposed to though. Readers of this story (or listeners) need to just sit down, and be ready to enjoy some nonsensical fun.

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Image of Mr. Taylor taken from his Amazon author page.

Dialogue: This is my favorite part of the story.  That talking goat is freaking hilarious! I sort of wish I could have watched this for dinner theater just for this part. I don’t think it’s near the level of Abbott and Costello, but this story has that sort of vibe.

Description:  When I initially thought of this, I didn’t really give it much thought, but then I considered how vivid this story is in my mind even after nearly two months. I can describe several scenes. This, to me, indicates perfect description. I wouldn’t expect any readers to see it right away, but any story in which I can mentally picture scenes has good description in my book.

Overall:  This is a short read with several laugh-out-loud moments. It’s complete nonsense, but in a good way. It feels like a tangent portion of a Family Guy episode. If you have a quick drive planned, and you like some silly laughs, try out this story.

Thanks for reading

Matt

A 5-Star Review for An Unusual Occupation!

A 5-Star Review for An Unusual Occupation!

AnUnusualOccupationCoverGreetings all,

 

Just sharing a quick 5-Star review for An Unusual Occupation.  It was short, but just look at what it says!  That makes a writer feel great!  God bless you, V.O. for this great review.

 

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: The Core by Peter V. Brett

Book Review: The Core by Peter V. Brett
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This cover was taken from Amazon.com for review purposes. The featured image was taken from Tachyon Publications for the same reason. 

Spoiler Free Summary:  In The Core by Peter V. Brett, The stage is set for Sharak Ka, the final war against demonkind. Arlen, a man who tattooed himself with wards to fight demons; Jardir, the leader of his people and self-proclaimed Deliverer; have joined forces and entered the core, dragging a demon prince as a guide. Inevera is trying to hold Jardir’s kingdom together no matter how much it seems to want to fall apart without her husband to lead. Leesha is ready to give birth, and her child’s complicated parentage forces her to try and outwit the world. She has to do this while preparing the free cities for a war they refuse to admit is on their doorstep.   As Arlen and Jardir travel to take out the queen of all demons, the rest of the world is left alone to face the onslaught of those same demons. Killing the queen is unlikely enough without the loss of life, but can they do it before everyone they’re fighting for dies?

Character:  I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. Peter V. Brett is the best writer of characters and character plots in the game.  His ability to use each previous book to give more insight to specific characters makes this book that much more compelling. Every single person, no matte how much screen time, has a deep, well-developed story. This reason alone would be enough to make this my favorite book of the year (which it is), but there’s a lot to like about this book. The characters are just the unquestioned strength of the series.

Exposition: Whenever you have a multi-book series, there’s inevitably a necessary amount of exposition to help readers who haven’t read the rest of the series know what’s going on. Brett weaves most of that in through dialogue, which makes a tad of it feel forced (see below).  However, I didn’t really notice much exposition here. Some, but not so much that it bothered me.

Worldbuilding: This is the other aspect of Brett’s saga that stands out. This is an interesting world with a solid foundation of lore, magic, and demonology. There were some elements here that felt a bit like Wheel of Time in that just when you think “that guy is scary!” some other newer, more powerful monster shows up. The political intrigue is a nice bit of detail. I’m glad the story is over (I hate series that run long or never seem to end), but I hope we see this world again soon.

Peter V. Brett
Portrait by Karsten Moran taken from Mr. Brett’s website.

Dialogue: When you’re characters are strong, everything else feels strong regardless of how good it actually is. As I sit here and really think about the dialogue in this book, I realized that’s where the bulk of the story’s exposition went. Characters realistically had to fill each other in, but those chunks of information were force-fed in some places. As long as the reader understands they’ll needed to get through those “info-dump” sections (I can think of three right now), the rest of the dialogue is crisp and powerful.

Description:  People who like deep, detailed description won’t think as highly of this as I do. I like my imagination to do the bulk of the heavy lifting, and Brett lets me do that. I get the details I need, and my mind takes care of the rest.  Those who want three adjectives for every noun won’t be happy though.

Overall:  The Core is (as I type this on May 28), the best book I’ve read so far in 2018. I figured it would be, but this book didn’t let me down in any way. It’s exciting, compelling, funny, and tragic. If you haven’t read this series, consider this my notification. Get this series! Read it! Great, interesting sagas with original magic systems are hard to find.   This one fits the bill.

Thanks for reading

Matt