B4B: Never Settle For Normal by Jonathan Parnell

“Every man, whatsoever his condition, desires to be happy. There is no man who does not desire this, and each one desires it with such earnestness that he prefers it to all other things; whoever, in fact, desires other things, desires them for this end alone.”

– St. Augustine

No one wants a normal life. Normal is almost a four letter word, a bad word. It’s something to be avoided. If we can do anything so that our lives are not a series of the same, we will do it. This aversion to normal comes from a deep seeded feeling, one that is found in all of us: we were made for more.

Where does that compulsion come from? How do we fulfil it? What more were we made for? How do we live a life that is far from normal?

Jonathan Parnell wants to help us with that. With a “proven path to significance and happiness“, this lead pastor of Cities Church in Minneapolis wants to see that we are not stuck in a boring, mundane life. Examining the powerful biblical truths and sharing his insights, Parnell will show us how in Jesus life will be anything but normal.

Never again will we need to be unhappy. Never again will we feel unimportant. Never again will we be stuck in a boring life. We can now Never Settle For Normal.

“The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man—and the dogma is the drama.”

– Dorthy Sayers

There is a lot that will bother readers about this book; that it isn’t about not settling for normal, that it is a salvation message in a book, that Parnell seems to think that joy and happiness are biblical synonyms. But for the astute reader, there will be things that will be so disturbing that they may not pick the book back up again.

Parnell is right that a life grounded in God should be far from normal, but he quickly deviates from that and seems to throw a wrench into any traditional understanding of God and Trinity.

When Parnell talks about the Trinity, it is either in the language supporting a heirachy, where the Father is loving the Son by way of fellowship of the Spirit (but not anything from Son to Father, or Spirit to anyone), or in ways that reduce the Spirit to an energy between Father and Son. That understanding makes the Spirit a byproduct of Father and Son and not a person in the Trinity.

While I will give it to Parnell (and any other pastor and theologians that try) that putting language to someone as complex as the Triune God, so much more clarity is needed. And if not more clarity, at least a rebuttal to say how you are limited by language or something.

If you are writing a book about how to live a life that is not normal and rooted in God, it is critical that you get the idea of God nailed down somehow. A tall order, I realize, but a faulty, or easily misunderstood portrayal of God is going to lead to a confusing book. Especially when discussing living or moving in the Spirit.

I wish there was more I could say that would uplift Never Settle For Normal. While I applaud his efforts, they seem to fall short. Even his grasp of happiness and joy, not synonyms in a biblical sense, seems to be slapped together from here and there to make his argument work. That isn’t good scholarship. That isn’t proper exegesis. That isn’t the gospel.

A final thought: any time a spiritual leader starts making definitive statements how to get you, or earn you things from God, run the other way. While Parnell may have discovered and charted the spiritual path to significance and happiness for him, it is not a guarantee for everyone. Such exact and precise statements do not have a place when we are talking about the mystery of God, the salvation he offers, or the life that we are called to in Christ Jesus. Life with God is not a science that can be replicated and repeated. A proven path can be a rut if you are not careful.

“Now the whole offer which Christianity makes is this: that we can, if we let God have His way, come to share in the life of Christ….The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.”

– C. S. Lewis

I agree with Jonathan Parnell that we shouldn’t settle for normal, that a life with Christ is an exciting, dynamic journey. But there is so much more going on in Never Settle For Normal that I cannot agree with. The poor language and misunderstanding of the Trinity and role of the Holy Spirit compels me to give this book a 2 out of 5-star rating.


MyBookLook: The Red Letter Words Of Jesus by Jack Countryman

Of all the words written in Scripture, none hold the same power or authority as those written in red. Those red letter words would be the words of Jesus Christ.

Over the centuries, Christians have read and marvelled at the wonderful words of Jesus. The peace they bring, the authority they bestow, the reality and paradigm shift that they demand have never been duplicated. No other wise or holy person’s words have had such an effect on the world as Jesus have. Even though these words were spoken over 2000 years ago, they still speak with great power.

The Red Letter Words Of Jesus are worth reflecting on regularly. And that is just what Jack Countryman’s latest book is here to help you do.

Having handpicked over 100 different passages from the Gospels, Countryman invites us to reflect on what Jesus said, and what it means for followers of Christ. And not just once, but every day. While Jesus may not be on the earth right now, His Word still remains, and it is still sharper than any two-edged sword. Let Christ speak through his words, and Jack Countryman’s own reflections in The Red Letter Words of Jesus.

First, I have to say that this book is beautiful. The great red leather binding takes the whole book to a new level. With ornamental, pressed binding, it feels like The Red Letter Words Of Jesus should be a book that is left on the shelf and admired from a far. It looks that good. But obviously, what Countryman written and what Jesus has said should not be left on the shelf. This book needs to be read.

Jack Countryman’s reflections on the words of Jesus are great but elementary. There isn’t room on a single page to dive deep into the powerful truths of Jesus’ red letter words. There is little exegesis or deep digging into why Jesus said these things. But that isn’t what this book is for. While I might lean towards a heavier book right now, the truth is that we all need a simple reminder at times. “Jesus is the Bread of Life” doesn’t need to be dissected anymore than “He is what we need to live, and live well.” Even that simple truth has the power to change your life, whether you are more eager for exegesis type books or not.

The simple but powerful truth that Jack Countryman shares regarding The Red Letter Words Of Jesus is the kind of devotional that we need more of: looking to our Savior, the words He spoke, and how they affect us on the simplest of levels.

The Red Letter Words Of Jesus is a beautiful book. Bound in a striking red leather, artistic renderings of Christ’s words, and Countryman’s quick reminders: this is wonderful devotional on some of the most powerful words in Scripture. If you are looking for a simple but powerful reminder of what Jesus has said, Countryman’s Red Letter Words is just right for you.

I give The Red Letter Words Of Jesus a 4 out of 5-star rating.

I review for BookLook BloggersDisclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tyndale (re)View: Almost There by Bekah DiFelice

“Home, then, becomes a quest driven by the belief that peace and rest are out there somewhere, if only you could find them on a map or in a career field or among a community of people who finally “get you.””

Have you lost track of the number of times you’ve moved? Not quite sure where you are from, because you called so many different places home? Or maybe you haven’t moved around a lot, but you still feel like you aren’t “quite there” or you aren’t in the right place yet? Continue reading “Tyndale (re)View: Almost There by Bekah DiFelice”

MyBookLook: Goliath MUST Fall by Louie Giglio


You are closer than you think to a life that’s not diminished any longer. A life of true freedom. A life that fully radiates God’s glory.”

There are some problems that will not leave. Some obstacles rear their ugly heads over and over again. It doesn’t matter what we do, what we change, what we pray; they are always there. You can call them stumbling blocks. You can call them whatever small, cutesy name you want, but the reality is anything but. These problems, they are giants. Demoralising, life-stomping giants standing in the way of you and the life that you want.

To hope and say “one day, my giant will be slain” is to still leave you in the clutches of fear and despair. To say that “my giant was defeated in the past” sets us up feeling like the giant wasn’t really dead, or perhaps we somehow, accidentally, resurrected it. To speak of the giant’s demise in the past or future leaves us with strange and conflicting ideas. Because the truth is, the giant is dead. He must fall down. It can and will stay down. Continue reading “MyBookLook: Goliath MUST Fall by Louie Giglio”

MyBookLook: Launch Your Dream by Dale Partridge

“…if you don’t chase your dreams, someone will hire you to build theirs.”

It’s the dream of many people to be their own boss. To be able to call the shots, to be in charge of their own company, their own future; it’s something that a large percentage of the population wants. But so few can actually say that is what their lives are like. More and more people remain living in their fantasy, longing for the day when they will be able to stop living with their heads in the clouds, and actually see their dreams as reality. What they need to do is to start. But how? How do you Launch Your Dream? Dale Partridge is here to help.

In a 30-day, step by step book, this Wall Street bestselling author shares everything you would need to know to go from dreaming about your business to living your business. From passion to profession, Partridge takes expert and practised advice, and encourages and equips the dreams to move on from their day jobs and into their dream jobs. Discussing the things that you need to know, like branding, “whyology”, how to relearn customer service, and so many valuable entrepreneurial skills, Launch Your Dream will speak to you no matter what kind of business you want to start. Continue reading “MyBookLook: Launch Your Dream by Dale Partridge”

B4B Reviews: The Chamberlain Key by Timothy Smith

What started out as a strange coincident turned out to be something much stranger than Timothy Smith first considered. A simple Bible story suddenly became a rabbit hole type mystery that sent Smith on a wild journey, unlocking a secret code that would rock his world in ways he never dreamed.

But is it true? The question one asks themselves when glancing on the cover, pondering what “The God Code” will reveal, is how accurate are Timothy Smith’s findings? What will happen if they are true?

Sadly, The Chamberlain Key is not some great, lost mystery that has recently been unearthed. Rather, this is a book that should be left alone, itself lost and forgotten.

Continue reading “B4B Reviews: The Chamberlain Key by Timothy Smith”

MyBookLook: The Dawn of Christianity by Robert J. Hutchinson

“What did Jesus do and say, in as little as one year and a maximum of three years, that could possibly have had such an impact? How did the community he somehow gathered together so quickly – made up of semiliterate fishermen, prostitutes, tax collectors, wealthy widows, day labourers, and even Roman soldiers – give birth to the spiritual revolution that became Christianity?”

What makes Christianity so special? What sets it apart from any other religion? These are important questions. But if you dig a little deeper, there are more interesting, more disturbing questions.

How did a movement that changed the world start, when the founder only worked for a maximum of three years? What did this Jesus do to have such an impact that has lasted for thousands of years? What did his followers do to spread this movement from a small Middle Eastern country to almost every corner of the globe? These are the types of questions that The Dawn of Christianity is interested in answering, and in a way that will truly set this book apart. Continue reading “MyBookLook: The Dawn of Christianity by Robert J. Hutchinson”