1 Star: Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson

Like Batterson's book "The Circle Maker", this book is very troubling and must be read carefully with much discernment and compared to the Bible carefully. Many have publicly commented negatively on the direction that author Mark Batterson's teachings are taking and the direction he may be headed – with accusations of "witchcraft", "ritual magic", "Jewish Talmud", a “prosperity gospel” "name-it-claim-it" direction of money, greed, false promises and a "me-centered theology", rather than "God-centered Christianity". Remember, the best false teachers slip teachings "that tickle our ears and appeal our our selfish desires" in the middle of many statements of truth. Pray for discernment before you read this book.

As a fellow-Christian and double-ly as a fellow 5 pt Calvinist, I wish I could say I believe the teachings of Mark Batterson are biblical. I read many statements about God's sovereignty and God's glory that my heart delighted over. However, in conclusion, I must agree with other reviewers that this book is absolutely promoting "prosperity gospel" and sadly, it is wrapped in the most clever, carefully-worded mask that I have EVER seen. This is not the easily visible greedy "prosperity gospel" of the "Word Faith" or "Word of Faith" cult. This is "prosperity gospel" carefully masked between beautiful statements of how we are to live our lives trusting in a sovereign God and living to glorify God! How "crafty" was the snake/Satan in the garden. Do not fall for his carefully disguised lies.

For every sentence, ask yourself "Do these teachings match the Bible?"

"In Luke 11[:5-10], Jesus tells a story about a man who won’t take no for an answer. He keeps knocking on his friend’s door until he gets what he came for. It’s a parable about prevailing in prayer. And Jesus honors his bold determination: “… yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.” I love this depiction of prayer. There are times when you need to do whatever it takes. You need to grab hold of the horns of the altar and not let go. You need to dare demonic forces to a duel. You need to do something crazy, something risky, something different." Mark Batterson. Draw the Circle (Kindle Locations 496-510). 
John Calvin says this verse means, "Believers ought not be discouraged, if they do not immediately obtain their desires, ... we have no reason to doubt that God will listen to us, if we persevere constantly in prayer..." However, notice how the alarm bells go off in your head when you read Batterson apply this to life by adding "there are times when you need to do WHATEVER IT TAKES." "You need to dare demonic forces to a duel." Is this biblical? Although some modern day Pentecostals believe we are to "go to battle with demons", the bible does not teach this. Batterson follows with this example extracted from the Jewish Talmud Scriptures (which Christians very much reject, as the Talmud is written by rabbis hostile towards Jesus) of "doing whatever it takes":
"The epitome of shameless audacity is the circle maker himself. When a severe drought threatened to destroy a generation of Jews, Honi drew a circle in the sand, dropped to his knees, and said, “Lord of the universe, I swear before Your great name that I will not move from this circle until You have shown mercy upon Your children.” It was a risky proposition. Honi could have been in that circle a long time! But God honored that bold prayer because that bold prayer honored Him. And even when God answered that prayer for rain, Honi had the shameless audacity to ask for a specific type of rain. “Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain of Your favor, blessing, and graciousness.” Mark Batterson. Draw the Circle (Kindle Locations 496-510). Zondervan.
First, this is a story from the Jewish Talmud, which includes some bizarre stories and portrays Jesus as a false prophet. We do not affirm anything in the Talmud to be a true account on its own basis. So we do not know that God honored any such prayer/demands from anyone named Honi. Batterson has dangerously gone into the Jewish Talmud and ripped a story out and is using it as a basis for teaching Christian prayer.
"The moral of this parable is to prevail in prayer, but it also reveals the character of Him who answers prayer. The request is not granted simply because of repeated requests. Prayer is answered to preserve God’s good name. After all, it’s not our reputation that is on the line; it’s His reputation. So God doesn’t answer prayer just to give us what we want; God answers prayer to bring glory to His name." Mark Batterson. Draw the Circle (Kindle Locations 496-510). Zondervan.
I can just see a dozen professing Christians demanding God grant their prayers "or else God will have a bad name." Or going before unbelievers and declaring "God will heal your mother or else He will have a bad name!" This is a very dangerous claim and I do not believe that Batterson accurately portrays prayer "for God's glory" as "according to God's will" and "according to God's foreordained purpose that is set from the foundation of the world" is nearly always left out of the context.
"Go home. Lock yourself in your room. Kneel down in the middle of the floor, and with a piece of chalk draw a circle around yourself. There, on your knees, pray fervently and brokenly that God would start a revival within that chalk circle."
Draw a chalk circle around yourself and demand that God grant your prayers or you will not leave your little chalk circle [Batterson teaches the "don't leave" in his The Circle Maker" book]? How unbiblical and disrespectful and dishonoring of God. How self-focused and self-centered. Is this how Jesus taught us to pray? What happened to praying according to the Father's will?
Dozens of farmers showed up to pray [for rain]. Most of them wore their traditional overalls, but one of them wore waders! ...Why not dress for the miracle? I love the simple, childlike faith of that old, seasoned farmer. He simply said, “I don’t want to walk home wet.” And he didn’t. But everyone else did. ...... I can’t help but wonder if that act of faith is what sealed the miracle. I don’t know for sure, but this I do know: God is honored when we act as if He is going to answer our prayers! And acting as if means acting on our prayers. After hitting our knees, we need to take a small step of faith. And those small steps of faith often turn into giant leaps. Like Noah, who kept building an ark day after day, we keep hammering away at the dream God has given us. Like the Israelites, who kept circling Jericho for seven days, we keep circling God’s promises. Like Elijah,10 who kept sending his servant back to look for a rain cloud, we actively and expectantly wait for God’s answer. ...... Don’t just pray about your dream; act on it. Act as if God is going to deliver on His promise. Maybe it’s time to put on waders and act as if God is going to answer. Mark Batterson. Draw the Circle (Kindle Locations 539-559). Zondervan.

Exactly like the "Word of Faith" cult that is the primary promoter of the "prosperity gospel", Batterson starts encouraging believers to "take a step in faith." This is the same false teaching referred to as "seed faith" by the "name-it-claim-it" group. Biblical "trusting faith" is trusting in God to do the best thing for you whichever way He decides to answer your prayer. It is not "acting as if God were going to grant your prayer in the way you want it to" as if this "voodo" "mind over matter" could fool God into granting that prayer just as you wish Him to. This is completely unbiblical.

Especially, take note of Batterson's false claim: "I can’t help but wonder if that act of faith is what sealed the miracle." Your "acting as if God were going to give you your desires" is NOT faith and it does NOT "seal" or "grant" or "cause God to move" in any such way. This is the unbiblical teaching of "seed faith", "faith-ing-it" or "mind over matter" or "mind over God". It is using your "behavior" to "fool God/prompt God" to give you what you want.

Immediately next, Batterson makes the bold declaration: "this I do know: God is honored when we act as if He is going to answer our prayers" This is completely false! First, God ALWAYS answers our prayers. Sometimes it's a "yes", "no", "later" but He ALWAYS answers them. So "acting as if He were going to answer "yes"" as if this little "behavior" were to twist God into answering a "yes" is completely false. Why not act as if God were to answer "no"? Same logic. This is completely unbiblical.

Like the master of deception himself, Batterson then cleverly slips in "we keep hammering away at the dream God has given us" [as the Israelites and Elijah did]. Notice that Israel and Elijah were given commands directly from God. "Our dreams" "wants" "desires" are not something God told us to pursue through a prophet. In fact, they are often worldly and contrary to the desires of God. This is why often God's answers to our prayers is a "no" because our Father knows these "wants" are not for our own good.

The number of passages in this book that teach an unbiblical view of prayer are astounding. This book is entirely "prosperity gospel" masked in low-Calvinism. And even then, the low-Calvinism promoted by Batterson is very tainted with a "man can influence God through clever tricks" theology.

My disclaimer - I received this book from the publisher but I am not required to give a positive review. I always give brutally honest reviews and attempt to critically point out parts of the book that may not agree with the Bible and so not appeal to others. I want you readers to be able to confidently choose a book based on the stars I give it, because I know you have limited money, time and energy to read. So let's make the most of our lives and discern and choose the very best books wisely. 

If you disagree with any point in any of my reviews, please in a loving, edifying and respectful manner, write me "as you wish someone would correct you" in detail pointing out exactly what you think I missed. I long to be sharpened. God bless.

3 Stars: Twelve Unlikely Heroes

A sovereign grace baptist non-denominational pastor, John MacArthur, spends a lot of time delving into indepth profiles of 12 biblical characters in this book. He expounds on each character, dedicating one full chapter for each biography: Enoch, Joseph, Miriam (sister of Moses), Gideon and Samson, Jonathan (King Saul's son), Jonah, Esther, John the Baptist, James (Jesus' brother), and Mark and Onesimus. This book serves as expanded biographies on each of these characters and concentrates more on making heroes out of men than on focusing our eyes on the Lord. It would have been most beneficial to have more of a God-related and gospel-related focus.

The book is a long, expanded, drawn out look into biblical characters. The biblical material for some of these characters is quite limited, so the author does not always stay on main character as the topic. For example, Enoch is only mentioned in a couple of bible passages. So, how does MacArthur dedicate an entire chapter (about 10% of the book) to Enoch, when very little is written about Enoch? He fills in the paragraphs with extra material having only a light correlation to Enoch. This extra filler material has little relevance to Enoch. The author spends an entire section telling us that Enoch has a nature like ours. But this is a given, because Enoch was also a man. Every single human being shares a similar "human nature". Why do we need 6 lengthy paragraphs on Enoch being a man like us? This is not relevant material and without all this "filler material" this chapter would be a short page or two. Next, MacArthur launches into the fact that Enoch walked with God. Since this is all the Bible says, MacArthur expands about 30 long paragraphs to tell us what walking with God is about. It may be beneficial to hear about walking with God, but it has no direct relevance to Enoch's biography. All the author's additional "filler material" really makes this more of "sermons on Enoch" rather than "a biography."

Reading this book was like reading a term paper where the student took a subject that rendered only 2 paragraphs and blew it up and filled it with extraneous material to expand those 2 paragraphs into a 15 page paper, except the author continuously loses the main subject - the characters of Enoch, Miriam, etc.

My disclaimer - I received this book from the publisher but I am not required to give a positive review. I always give brutally honest reviews and attempt to critically point out parts of the book that may not agree with the Bible and so not appeal to others. I want you readers to be able to confidently choose a book based on the stars I give it, because I know you have limited money, time and energy to read. So let's make the most of our lives and discern and choose the very best books wisely.