The Power of Presence: a book review

Neil Anderson, author of Victory Over the Darkness and The Bondage Breaker has been a passionate advocate for the freedom we have in Christ. Past hurts, spiritual commitments and brokenness have held people in bondage. Anderson has pointed Christians to the real freedom available to those who are in Christ; however this hasn’t always been an easy road (his autobiography is called Rough Road to Freedom). I haven’t always agreed with Anderson (I think his description of bondage from ‘ritual abuse’ is inaccurate and unhelpful) but I respect the ways he has opened up a way for evangelicals to experience God’s healing for their past. His newest book The Power of Presence: A Love StoryThe Power of Presence: A Love Story tells a story of freedom and struggle.

9780857217318Anderson’s wife of 50 years, Joanne, is in the midst of the long decline of agitated dementia. Her illness has necessitated that she spend her days at an assisted living facility. Neil is with her during the days.Joanne at times feels isolated and alone, longing for Neil’s presence with her. The Power of Presence tells the story of how Neil has learned to love his wife in this stage of life. Anderson also uses his wife’s struggle as a metaphor for our own desperation for God’s Presence.

This is a short, six chapter book. Chapters one and two feel the most vulnerable. Anderson describes the absence of God’s presence and the times where He feels absent (having suspended his conscious blessing).  Chapter describes coming into God’s presence and praying in the Spirit with thanksgiving. Chapter four describes ministry in God’s presence. Chapters five and six describe resting and being fully in God’s presence.

I appreciate this book for the way that Anderson shares the vulnerable and difficult journey it has been for him to internalize these lessons. There are poignant lessons that Anderson is learning in his wintering years. I give this four stars.

Note: I received this book from Kregel in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

40 Days of Grace: a book review

While I occasionally review devotional literature, I am not really a ‘devotional guy.’ This is especially true of the 40 day journey variety. Admittedly, I can lack the consistency and stick-to-itiveness to complete the ‘whole 40 days.’ I also have bad memories of being dragged through the 40 days of Purpose (twice).  My big issue is that I find devotional books somewhat shallow. I’d rather pick up the Bible, and maybe a good commentary and study something. So it was with a little bit of apprehension that I began Rich Miller’s 40 days of Grace. Except I did it in like 32. I’m not bragging or anything, I’m just letting you know I did it all wrong.

Miller is the president of Freedom in Christ Ministries, USA, an organization founded by Neil Anderson (Miller has also  co-written several books with Anderson).  Miller is the sole author of these devotions; however the book is designed to be used in concert with The Grace Course, a DVD curriculum featuring Steve Goss and Rich Miller (although it can also be enjoyed separately).

Miller’s six week (5 weeks, and 5 day) journey explores the different facets of Grace. The first week is devoted to describing what grace is, how amazing it is, and how good and gracious God is for giving us a gift we do not deserve. The following weeks expand on how  God’s grace ministers to various parts of our soul. God’s grace in Christ deals decisively with our sin and guilt (week 2), our shame (week 3), our fears (week 4), and our pride (week 5). The final five days are devoted to exhorted us to live the “Grace-rest life.”

Miller writes these devotional reflections with wit, insight and good humor.  My initial impression of this book was that it was overly basic. But there are many ways where we can ‘get grace’ intellectually yet still fail to live it out. Miller’s Mission) is to get us to understand experientially what we have been given in Christ, and help us to flourish as a result. This is a good goal, and sometimes a ‘back to the basics’ approach is good for the soul.  However, I think that I would recommend this more for new Christians than seasoned saints.  That isn’t to say that this book didn’t also make me hunger for a deeper, richer experience of God’s grace in my own life.  I loved that Miller is not content to leave his description of grace as God’s gift of salvation from sin.  By tracing the way Grace sets captives free (from sin, guilt, shame, fear, pride), Miller points us to a more grace-full life.

This was better than my previous 40 Day journeys (even if I got done eight days early).  Of course Miller doesn’t say everything about grace (anymore than Rick Warren speaks comprehensively about the purposes of God). What he does say here, is generally biblical, thoughtful and personally enriching. I give it 3.5 stars.

Thank you to Kregel Publications for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Hello Mr. Anderson (a book review)

Rough Road to Freedom: A Memoir by Neil T. Anderson

I like to read lots of kinds of books, but I think one of my favorite genres is memoir. I love to read people’s’ stories and hear the types of things that shaped them socially, intellectually and emotionally. In Christian memoirs, you also get to hear about conversion and call,  the types of things that shaped a person’s convictions, and struggles along the way. Rough Road to Freedom is the story of Neil T. Anderson, best known in the Evangelical world for writing Victory Over the Darkness and The Bondage Breaker. Freedom in Christ Ministries, the ministry Anderson founded has helped people experience victory over demonic oppression and brought healing to their lives.

Anderson grew up on a farm and went on to serve in the US Navy and became an aeronautical engineer before feeling called to the ministry. He was a pastor and seminary professor (Talbot) before starting Freedom in Christ Ministries.  Along the way, Anderson shares how his theology of God’s kingdom (and that other kingdom) develops,  and  his experience in helping people confront the power of darkness in their lives.

I enjoyed this book. Anderson is a person of  integrity who has had his own struggles with bitterness and un-love, darkness and feelings of spiritual dryness,  difficult circumstances  and he has had to deal with his fair share of opposition.  I enjoyed reading how his theology developed and of the many people he has been able to walk alongside and helped experience Christ’s freedom. I appreciated his graciousness with his opponents.

I do not necessarily agree with Anderson’s theology on every point, but I like his story.  It also helps me contextualize some of his theological commitments. If you like Christian memoirs or are just interested in knowing more about this influential figure, this is a good book for you.  Because Anderson focuses on his theological development and ministry experience, some may find this book a little less story oriented and ‘preachier’ than your typical memoir. I think that is a fair critique,  but I liked it anyway (4 stars).

Thank you to Kregel Publications for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for this review.