Sunday, August 21, 2016

Cold-Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace

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Cold-Case Christianity
by J. Warner Wallace

ISBN-13: 9781434704696
Trade Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook
Released: Jan. 1, 2013

Source: Bought from

Book Description from Goodreads:
Written by an L. A. County homicide detective and former atheist, Cold-Case Christianity examines the claims of the New Testament using the skills and strategies of a hard-to-convince criminal investigator.

Christianity could be defined as a “cold case”: it makes a claim about an event from the distant past for which there is little forensic evidence. In Cold-Case Christianity, J. Warner Wallace uses his nationally recognized skills as a homicide detective to look at the evidence and eyewitnesses behind Christian beliefs. Including gripping stories from his career and the visual techniques he developed in the courtroom, Wallace uses illustration to examine the powerful evidence that validates the claims of Christianity. A unique apologetic that speaks to readers’ intense interest in detective stories, Cold-Case Christianity inspires readers to have confidence in Christ as it prepares them to articulate the case for Christianity.

My Review:
Cold-Case Christianity looks at the claims of the gospels from the point of view of a cold case detective. The author looked at many "lines of evidence" as he examined the gospels, and I felt he did an excellent job of explaining how he came to his conclusions. He even covered some angles that I haven't read before and which I found very interesting.

He began by using examples of various cases he's worked on to show how a detective examines evidence. He then applied these methods to the evidence surrounding the claims of the gospels. Then he looked at some of the evidence in greater detail. He looked at when the gospels were written, if they are eyewitness accounts, if they are accurate, how well these accounts have been preserved over time, what the motive was behind writing the gospels, and how much evidence is "enough."

I wouldn't hesitate to give this book to anyone who is uncertain about the gospels or who likes to debate these issues. This book will especially appeal to those who are interested in detective work.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Dwelling Places by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

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Dwelling Places
by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

ISBN-13: 978-1501815324
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Released: June 7, 2016

Source: Advanced Reader review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Award-winning author Lucinda Secrest McDowell knows that if you spend a few minutes every day turning to God's Word for wisdom and guidance, your faith can flourish and grow. Through short and inspiring readings, McDowell unpacks a single word--like mercy, beauty, gratitude, or grace--to uncover a biblical blessing or lesson you can act on that very day. Each devotion includes stories and illustrations to foster understanding and ends with a benediction, written as if God were speaking directly to you.

Organized into four seasons--fall, Advent, Lent, and summer--these devotions invite you to discover those "dwelling places" that offer the joy of God's promises and presence.

My Review:
Dwelling Places is a devotional book with 130 days worth of devotions. These are divided into 4 seasons: Dwell (30 devotionals, fall theme), Shine (30 devotionals, winter/Christmas theme, suggested read during Advent), Renew (40 devotionals, for Lent), Grow (30 devotionals, summer theme). Each day's devotion is based on a word, and the author quotes a verse containing that word. She then related a story and talked about the verse. Each devotion ended with a paragraph written as if God is speaking to the reader about what was covered in the devotion. Overall, I'd recommend this devotional book.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Temple and the Tabernacle by J. Daniel Hays

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The Temple and the Tabernacle
by J. Daniel Hays

ISBN-13: 9780801016202
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Baker Books
Released: Aug. 2, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from NetGalley:
At various points in Israel's history, God dwelt in specific, significant places, most notably in the tabernacle and the temple. These structures, meticulously planned, extravagantly furnished, and regularly frequented by the devout, were more than just places of worship and sacrifice. They were pictures of God's relationship with his chosen people and of the atoning work that would be done by the Messiah. To understand the tabernacle and the temple, then, is to understand how we are brought into God's family through the sacrifice of his only Son, Jesus.

Visually stunning and theologically rich, this full-color resource brings together the latest scholarship and archeological discoveries to bring God's dwelling places alive for modern believers. It places these important structures in their historical and theological contexts, connects them with the overall biblical story, and shows how they bring meaning and depth to the faith of Christians today.

My Review:
The Temple and the Tabernacle examines what the tabernacle and temples looked like, their purpose, and their theological significance. The author started by looking at the purpose of a temple and how the Garden of Eden fulfilled that role. He then looked at how the ark and tabernacle were built, their function, and some of their symbolic aspects. He contrasted this with how Solomon went about building the temple and what it looked like. I found this contrast enlightening as I'd never stopped to think about how different Solomon's Temple was from the tabernacle.

The author also discussed God's departure from the temple (Ezekiel 8-11), the rebuilding of the temple, Herod's additions to temple area, and the future temple (Ezekiel 40, Rev. 21-22). We get a detailed description of what the temple looked like at various times based on descriptions in the Bible and from other sources. The author generally avoided speculation and stuck to the symbolism pointed out in the Bible itself. However, he did speculate about what the lamp stand, for example, might have originally looked like.

Overall, I found this book very interesting and would recommend it to anyone interested in a detailed study of the tabernacle and the temples.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Me Too by Jon Weece

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Me Too:
Experience the God Who Understands
by Jon Weece

ISBN-13: 9781400206926
Trade Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

Source: Review copy from the publisher through BookLook.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Your life is filled with pressure and pain and heartache and disappointment. So was His. Christianity does not require you to smile through your pain, much less praise God for tormenting you. God doesn’t enjoy your suffering. But he does understand it—and he knows exactly how to fix it.

That’s what Me Too is all about: A God who turned the ugliness of the cross into a spectacle of eternal beauty. An all-powerful Lord who will do the same with the pain of this world. An eternal Father who specializes in wiping away tears and putting you back together again. If you’ll allow him.

My Review:
Me Too looked at how Jesus understands our suffering. The author covered a wide variety of topics: vulnerability, praying, fear, loving your enemy, hospitality, grace, forgiveness, suicide, abortion, second chances, and more. Each chapter felt self-contained rather than building on each other, through the theme of Jesus understanding our suffering and being the answer that we're looking for is found in each.

The author looked to the Bible and Jesus' example of how he dealt with various issues. He also used stories from modern life. The writing was casual, so it's easy to read and understand. The author used a very encouraging and compassionate tone and came from a "me, too" view of struggles. Overall, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Secret Language of Churches & Cathedrals by Richard Stemp

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The Secret Language of Churches & Cathedrals
by Richard Stemp

ISBN-13: 9781780289618
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Watkins Publishing
Released: July 19, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Who is depicted in that stained glass window? What is the significance of those geometric figures? Why are there fierce-looking beasts carved amidst all that beauty? Is there a deeper purpose behind the play of light and space in the nave? Why is there a pelican on the lectern and ornate foliage on the pillars? The largely illiterate medieval audience could read the symbols of churches and cathedrals and recognize the meanings and stories deliberately encoded into them.

Today, in an age less attuned to iconography, such places of worship are often seen merely as magnificent works of architecture. This book restores the lost spiritual meaning of these fine and fascinating buildings. It provides a three-part illustrated key by which modern visitors can understand the layout, fabric and decorative symbolism of Christian sacred structures.

Part One is an analysis of structural features, outside and in, from spires and domes to clerestories and brasses.

Part Two is a theme-by-theme guide, which identifies significant figures, scenes, stories, animals, flowers, and the use of numbers, letters and patterns in paintings, carvings and sculpture.

Part Three is a historical decoder, revealing the evolution of styles - from basilicas through Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic and beyond.

For all those who seek to know more about Christian art and architecture, this richly illustrated book will instruct and delight in equal measure.

My Review:
The Secret Language of Churches & Cathedrals provides a tour of these buildings, explaining the practical, historical, and symbolic reasons behind their features. The author looked at Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches.

The first part described what you see as you approach and enter the building and explained the architectural features found in a typical cathedral or church. The second part looked at the paintings and sculptures and identified various people and common symbols and scenes for those of us not "in the know." The third part looked at the elements found in the earliest churches and how they changed throughout history.

The book contained many full-color pictures from the outside and inside of churches to illustrate the points made in the text. For paintings, we're shown the overall ceiling, then detail shots with descriptions of what is being show in that section.

I once went on a study abroad tour were we visited many cathedrals. I felt like I was missing half of what I was seeing because I didn't know the intent behind it. I'd recommend this book to those planning on touring cathedrals or who are just interested in the topic.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Heart Made Whole by Christa Black Gifford

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Heart Made Whole
by Christa Black Gifford

ISBN-13: 9780310346494
Trade Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: June 7, 2016

Source: Review copy from the publisher through BookLook.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Christa Black Gifford shares her own stories of loss, betrayal, and personal tragedy, to help those in pain invite the true Healer into the tangled mess of their broken hearts. Gifford reminds readers that pain is not their enemy, however, unhealed pain can become their greatest foe if it’s not taken to Jesus.

My Review:
In Heart Made Whole, talked about the many emotional traumas in her life, from the loss of her child all the way back to giggling girls in her childhood. Previously, she'd dealt with pain by ignoring it and hoping it'd go away. Recently, though, she's learned to acknowledge her pain, find the causes, and ask God to heal her, rather than attacking her emotions as shameful.

She grew up believing some wrong things, like that God's sovereignty means that he wants and causes bad things to happen to us. Her theology has improved, but she's concluded that God has given up his sovereignty over our lives so that we can have free will. Thus God doesn't want anything bad to happen to us, but we come to harm because we live in a fallen world and people have free will. This God patiently waits, offering to comfort us and make the best out of our messes and victim-hood.

Yet the Bible is very clear that God is completely sovereign AND we have free will. That God is not the source of evil and does not rejoice in our pain, but he does allow some bad things to happen (and--mercifully--not others) within this fallen world. So I have a problem with the theology she teaches in this book even if it's a step closer to the truth for her. I also find no comfort in the thought that God's not in control, which is implied by her theology.

Some of her other beliefs were unclear. She either has regular, vivid visions or a very active imagination. Rather than thinking about how she's feeling, she'd ask, "Heart, how are you doing?" with the response being a vision. She described visions of Jesus cracking up jokes and playing patty-cake with her. Later, she stated that she feels using her imagination to spend time with Jesus is a good thing.

I'm glad that she's come to see God as loving, but I generally found the book confusing (with all the analogies and jumps around in time) and disappointing in terms of theology.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Mind of Terror by Tass Saada

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The Mind of Terror
by Tass Saada
with Dean Merrill

ISBN-13: 9781496411877
Trade Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Released: July 1, 2016

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
What motivates Islamic terrorists? What is in the mind of terror? Our news reports from the Middle East cover events--bombings, massacres, and suicide attacks. Our newscasters take time to explain who the players are--from Hezbollah to the Iranian Quds, from ISIS to the Palestinian National Authority. But there is something underneath these events and players that fuels atrocity after atrocity in the Middle East. What is it?

Tass Saada provides the answer to that question as he delves into the mind of terror, explaining what motivates extremist groups throughout the Middle East. A former Muslim and a onetime sniper with Yasser Arafat's Fatah organization, Tass has lived it himself. At age 42, he steered his life in a radical new direction, committing it to Jesus. Tass not only describes the motivations and aspirations of those who live in the Middle East, he also outlines a peaceful solution. We can plant seeds of hope that will transform not only the Middle East, but also our increasingly diverse neighborhoods at home.

My Review:
The Mind of Terror describes possible motives for terrorist activity, how people may respond, and how Christians can respond. The author (Tass Saada) was once a sniper for a terrorist group, so he knows firsthand what motivates terrorism. He provided a balanced, realistic view of people's motives and was sympathetic to certain reactions as being understandable even though they aren't desirable since they don't lead to a solution.

The author described the leading terrorist groups (which are not all Muslim) and the diversity of beliefs among Muslims. He explained how honor/shame cultures work and a variety of reasons why someone might become a terrorist. He looked at a number of ways that people respond to terrorism and explained why these reactions don't lead to peace.

He looked at verses in the Bible that Christians may not be aware of regarding Abraham, Ishmael, and Isaac. Then he described a better way to respond and gave examples of people living out this better way. He looked at what motivates people to peace, how to earn the right to be heard, and what you can do (even if terrorists seem outside of your influence). I'd highly recommend this book.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.