Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Comment about BookLook

A few months ago, BookLook--a book blogger site for requesting books--sent me a survey asking how they were doing. At that time, I said their site was one of the easiest book blogger sites I used and, on the rare occasion I needed help, their e-mail help promptly and helpfully responded. After that, I requested a book on April 5...which was never sent, so I can't turn in a review. I've contacted their e-mail help 4 times now, and only received an automated response saying that my request for help has been received. No one has responded and no action has been taken to fix this problem. The only way to free up my account to request another book is to turn in a review, so...hey, this is my review! Sorry to all my readers that you got this as well.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Worship by Jeff Kinley

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Worship
by Jeff Kinley


ISBN-13: 9781943852451
Trade Paperback: 180 pages
Publisher: True Potential
Released: 2017

Source: Checked out from church library.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Unfortunately, the image of God present in many Christians’ minds today resembles more of a caricature than an accurate portrait. Like a cartoonist’s sketch, some entertain a distorted picture of who God is and what He is like, with many relating to Him as a distant Deity or even as a faceless Force. Others see Him merely as a compassionate, caring, and convenient God. Worse, false teachers have also infiltrated the Church. Many deny core truths, reimagining God to fit their preferences. This flawed, idolatrous understanding reduces Him into a deity that exists to serve us and our needs.

But the God of Scripture exists independent of our thoughts, feelings and ideas of Him. He is not as we imagine Him to be, but rather who He declares Himself to be in Scripture. This biblical knowledge is the very basis and beginning of authentic worship. It is through this heavenly understanding that we come face to face with the real God, discovering and experiencing what worship was meant to be!

With author, speaker, and veteran Bible teacher Jeff Kinley as your guide, journey deep into God’s Word, where you will encounter not only a refreshing simplicity, but also a renewed level of intimacy with your God and Savior!


My Review:
Worship is a Bible Study about worship. It's not about music styles or other "worship service" debates but about what the Bible says. Starting in Genesis, the author talked about how worship was easy and automatic before the Fall. That's no longer true, yet we're hardwired to worship, so where do we start? "Your view of God will determine your worship of Him. The more you know of God's greatness, the greater your capacity to declare His praise."

So the author explored what God is like and why He is worthy of worship. He also looked at examples of "extreme worship" in the Bible, like when David got to dancing or the widow in the New Testament gave "all she had" when she gave her two coins at the Temple. He talked about sacrificial praise, given when circumstances aren't so great...but our God still is.

The book was easy to read and to follow. The author made excellent points. I appreciate that he dug into the Bible to look for answers. Overall, 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.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Forensic Faith by J. Warner Wallace

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Forensic Faith
by J. Warner Wallace


ISBN-13: 9781434709882
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: David C Cook
Released: May 1, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Forensic Faith will help readers: understand why they have a duty to defend the truth, develop a training strategy to master the evidence for Christianity, learn how to employ the techniques of a detective to discover new insights from God’s Word, and become better communicators by learning the skills of professional case makers.

With real-life detective stories, fascinating strategies, and biblical insights, Wallace teaches readers cold-case investigative disciplines they can apply to their Christian faith.


My Review:
Forensic Faith explains why Christians need to learn the evidence supporting the Christian faith and teaches some basic apologetics skills. The first part of the book made the case for why it's important not to just have blind faith that Christianity is true but to understand the evidence that confirms it's true and to build your skill at sharing this information.

Many Christian kids are losing their faith due to unanswered questions, yet the answers are out there. We need to train our kids (and adults) with the answers. Training involves practice, and the author described how he's done this with youth groups. I totally agree that kids should be taught the evidence and the skill to share it. I taught myself some of this way back when I first went to college, and it made a huge difference.

The author was a cold-case detective. In the second part of the book, he explained how skills he used as a detective can be applied to spotting evidence for Christianity and using this evidence to make a case for it. A lot of this information was from (and covered in greater detail in) his previous two books. If you've read those books, you're probably already convinced that it's important to learn and share the evidence for Christianity, but you might still be interested in his suggestions on how to train youth groups or on using the evidence to "make a case" when asked why you believe. However, I'd mainly recommend this book to Christians who aren't very familiar with the evidence supporting their faith.


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, May 4, 2017

Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol 5 by Michael L. Brown

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Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol 5
by Michael L. Brown


ISBN-13: 9781881022862
Paperback: 353 pages
Publisher: Purple Pomegranate Productions
Released: Nov. 5, 2015

Source: Bought from a store.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
In the fifth and final volume of his series, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Dr. Michael Brown refutes the traditional Jewish concept that there is a binding, authoritative Oral Law going back to Moses. While showing great respect for his people's traditions, Brown demonstrates that when there is a conflict between the Bible and tradition, Jews are called to follow the Bible.


My Review:
Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol 5 "refutes the traditional Jewish concept that there is a binding, authoritative Oral Law going back to Moses." The author wrote as if talking directly to a traditional Jew who believes in the Oral Torah. He started each section with a defense commonly given for the Oral Law, then he described why this defense isn't convincing or accurate.

I'm not a Jew and was simply interested in learning what the Oral Torah referred to. Since the author assumed that the reader is well informed about the Oral Torah, my questions weren't directly answered. However, I did get an idea of what it is, how it developed, and what traditional Jews think about it.

The author was very detailed and exhaustive in his responses, looking at example after example. That's good if you're talking with someone who knows all of the counter-arguments, but it's more than I can easily remember if I wanted to argue the case myself. Still, I do remember many of the overall points he made. I suspect it's a good book in terms of doing what the author intended. However, I'm wondering just how many people who are that devoted to the Oral Torah would be open to reading his arguments.


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.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

30 Days in the Land of the Psalms by Charles H. Dyer

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30 Days in the Land of the Psalms
by Charles H. Dyer


ISBN-13: 9780802415691
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Released: May 2, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
The psalms are among the church’s finest treasures, a collection of writings where many find solace, comfort, and hope. Yet some psalms refer to places and objects modern readers have never seen and can’t picture. Until now. From author and renowned Israel expert Dr. Charles H. Dyer comes a devotional that brings selected psalms to life. Each entry features a beautiful, full-color photo of a Holy Land site, a suggested reading from Scripture, and a reflection that incorporates Dr. Dyer's knowledge of the land.


My Review:
30 Days in the Land of the Psalms is a 30-day devotional on the Psalms. You read the selected psalm in your own Bible, then read Dyer's comments and application. He often started an entry by describing a stop as if we were on a tour of the Holy Land. He described aspects of the psalm that people who haven't visited Israel may have trouble visualizing or might misunderstand. There were full-color pictures of the different places under discussion, though many of these were different views of Jerusalem or the wilderness.

This devotional covered Psalms 1, 11, 18, 20, 22, 23, 30, 42, 43, 46, 48, 56, 84, 90, 91, 96, 100, 102, 118, 120, 121, 122, 125, 127, 131, 133, 134, 136, 147, and 150. Overall, I'd recommend this devotional, but I felt like I gained more insights from the author's Thirty Days in the Land with Jesus devotional.


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.


Friday, April 21, 2017

NIV Faithlife Study Bible, Standard Print

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NIV Faithlife Study Bible
Standard Print


ISBN-13: 9780310080572
Hardcover: 2704 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: March 7, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Filled with innovative graphics and rich commentary, this visually stunning study Bible delivers helpful insights designed to inform your faith. Robust study notes are built on the original languages and adapted from the popular Faithlife Study Bible app. The balance of striking graphics, comprehensive study features, and intriguing insights from multiple points of view will keep you curious as you explore the treasures of God’s Word.

Features include:

-The full text of the most read, most trusted modern-English Bible – the New International Version (NIV)

-In depth book introductions that include an outline and information on authorship, background, structure, themes, and a map, a timeline, or both

-Verse-by-verse study notes with the unique focus of revealing nuances from the original biblical languages for modern readers

-Informative contributions by respected scholars and best-selling authors including Charles Stanley, Randy Alcorn, and Ed Stetzer, among others

-Over 100 innovative full color infographics, comprehensive timelines and informative tables to enrich Bible study. Three detailed life-of-Jesus event timelines chronicling his infancy and early ministry, the journey to Jerusalem, and the passion and resurrection. 27 family trees and people diagrams illustrate the interconnectedness of key characters in Scripture


My Review:
NIV Faithlife Study Bible is a New International Version with copious study notes. These notes included word studies, information on people and places mentioned in the verses, and cultural or historical background information. It also had maps, timelines, family tree charts, tables comparing different theological views, and infographics showing things like a fishing boat, ancient Israelite house, and royal seals of Judah.

It sounded like the study notes would focus on helping the reader understand the text for themselves rather than telling the reader what to think about the verses. In the New Testament, that was generally true and I felt the notes and graphics were interesting and helpful. It's in the Old Testament--especially early Genesis--that I had some problems.

The Old Testament notes often assumed that other Ancient Near Eastern beliefs deeply influenced the biblical narrative and beliefs. I believe that Genesis preserves the true history of the universe, and any similarities found in ancient myths are degraded forms of that true history. So I had problems with statements like "this reflects an understanding common in the ancient Near East" about how the universe worked, and then the verse was explained using New Eastern beliefs. And we're told that "the deep" in Genesis 1:2 refers to chaos and a chaos deity, thus God created chaos and so "the chaos is part of what God deems 'very good'" All because the word for "the deep" is somewhat similar to the name of a chaos deity in a religion that existed around the time of Moses.

The notes sometimes provided a look at a various viewpoints. In early Genesis, they gave more information about views that don't favor the plainly intended meaning of a verse. So we're told that the author of Genesis 1:5 specifies the length of the day with "evening and there was morning," but then they immediately say it could really mean any length of time. They could have simply stated the nonliteral interpretations rather than making it clear that they favor a nonliteral view. The notes for Noah's Flood mention that there is evidence that backs up a global flood and the verses clearly indicate such, but then basically say that a global flood is still questionable. I would have preferred it if the notes just stated the various views or that there are similarities with other religions rather than telling us what to think.


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.


Graphic Example:



Thursday, April 6, 2017

Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation by Robert Morgan

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Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation
by Robert Morgan


ISBN-13: 9780718083373
Hardback: 192 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: April 4, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through BookLook.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight. — Psalm 19:14

Do you long to deepen your intimacy with the Lord? To find a sense of soul-steadying peace? To develop emotional strength? Then you will need to pause long enough to be still and know He is God. Trusted Pastor Robert Morgan leads us through a journey into biblical meditation, which, he says, is thinking Scripture—not just reading Scripture or studying Scripture or even thinking about Scripture—but thinking Scripture, contemplating, visualizing, and personifying the precious truths God has given us.

The practice is as easy and portable as your brain, as available as your imagination, as near as your Bible, and the benefits are immediate. As you ponder, picture, and personalize God’s Word, you begin looking at life through His lens, viewing the world from His perspective. And as your thoughts become happier and holier and brighter, so do you.


My Review:
Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation examines the practice of meditating on Scripture. The author started by explaining what biblical meditation is and the many benefits of practicing it (like peace, energy, hope, insights, etc.). He talked about biblical and modern examples of people who practiced biblical meditation and provided "quick tips" about practicing Biblical meditation. He also explained how to meditate on Scripture by pondering, personifying, and practicing the verses to help you to internalize these truths and gain God's perspective on life.

While it seemed like much of the book focused on convincing the reader to take up (and stick with) biblical meditation, I did feel comfortable that I could do it after completing this book. I enjoyed the 10-day meditation guide at the end, which takes you step-by-step through the "ponder, personify, practice" process using some verses quoted in the book. Overall, I'd highly recommend this book.

Side note: He included a story about having trouble sleeping once due to a sudden fear that popped into his mind, but meditating on a Scripture verse allowed him to fall back to sleep. I've been struggling with fears popping into my head when I'm trying to sleep, but I've been able to remain calm since I started pondering Bible verses as I go to bed. I felt like that story was just for me.


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, March 21, 2017

The Dawn of Christianity by Robert J. Hutchinson

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The Dawn of Christianity
by Robert J. Hutchinson


ISBN-13: 9780718079420
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: March 14, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through BookLook.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
The Dawn of Christianity tells the story of the last week of Jesus' life and the first few years after his death and resurrection. Using the most recent studies by top Christian and secular scholars, Robert Hutchinson reconstructs all of the known accounts of the witnesses to the resurrection and the initial years afterward, when they spread the word about what they had witnessed.


My Review:
The Dawn of Christianity is a "narrative retelling" of the last week of Jesus' life and of the first few years after his death and resurrection. The author used direct quotes from the Bible, summarized what happened, or created a fictional narrative of what might have happened. However, this is a commentary rather than pure narrative.

While talking about events, the author provided information about the political situation of the time and archeological discoveries. For example, he described what the temple looked like and the likely location of the crucifixion along with details about crucifixion. The author also talked about what skeptics of the Bible have thought and now think about various passages.

While he usually said "some skeptics doubted" or similar phrases, a few times he said "scholars doubted"--like anyone who believed the accuracy of the Bible couldn't be counted as a scholar. He also tried to explain away the supernatural elements. If Jesus raised someone from the dead, that person wasn't really dead but asleep and Jesus just revived them. (Happily, Jesus' resurrection was not explained away using this argument.) According to the author, Jesus just assumed that anyone criticizing the system would end up dead--yet he held out hope he'd avoid death and considered running away to a foreign country. He also had Jesus secretly arranging things like the use of the donkey and the Upper Room and keeping this information from his closest followers for security reasons.

The part about the first few years of the early church was mostly a summary of events described in Acts along with some political background information. The commentary effort was mostly spent on the events right before and after the crucifixion. There are plenty of books that cover that material and do so in a way that's easier to read (as this had a more academic tone).


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.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Alive in Him by Gloria Furman

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Alive in Him
by Gloria Furman


ISBN-13: 9781433549779
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Crossway
Released: March 31, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from Goodreads:
God's grand plan for the redemption of creation has been in motion since before time began. The book of Ephesians lays out this glorious vision, highlighting the coming of Christ's kingdom on earth--a kingdom that will soon arrive in full.

In Alive in Him, Gloria Furman leads us deep into the biblical text, exploring the book's main themes and showing us how the blessings we have received in Christ empower us to walk in a new way. Designed to be read alongside the book of Ephesians, Alive in Him draws us into the plotline of Scripture, directing our gaze to the love of Jesus Christ--a love that has the power to transform how we live.


My Review:
Alive in Him is a thematic study of Ephesians. Rather than studying Ephesians verse-by-verse, the author took a section at a time and explored its theme. She assumed you will read the text in your Bible before reading this book. The first half is about what Christ has accomplished through the cross, and the second half is about how we can walk in the light of that reality. I liked how she pulled verses in from other parts of the Bible to help us better understand the points made in Ephesians.

While the author is very enthusiastic about the topics covered, this is a dense book as she didn't use many stories to illustrate her points. I normally prefer this style, but there were times I'd have to re-read sentences and was still left unsure exactly what she meant. It sounded profound but needed more or clearer explanation. Overall, though, I enjoyed this study of Ephesians.


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, March 7, 2017

Jesus by A. W. Tozer

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Jesus
by A. W. Tozer


ISBN-13: 9780802415202
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Released: March 7, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Tozer helps to high thoughts of God brought low—yet no less moving—for the common reader. Jesus: The Life and Ministry of God the Son features selections from Tozer’s writings on the God-man, Jesus Christ. It follows the chronology of Christ's earthly life and explores classic themes of Christology, helping readers better comprehend and appreciate Jesus’ person and work.

When you set out to study Christ, you want to behold His splendor the best you can. Read Jesus and appreciate anew the Savior of the world and the power of the written word to glorify His name.


My Review:
Jesus is a collection of 17 sermons or essays by A. W. Tozer that are organized by periods of Jesus' life. The first essays tended to focus on the character and work of God and Jesus, and I enjoyed these. Some of the later essays got sidetracked into pointing out the errors of belief in certain Christian (or non-Christian) groups rather than focusing solely on the work of Christ. While interesting in a historical way (especially as some of these errors are still around), I didn't enjoy these as much.

The questions at the end of each chapter generally helped me to think over and process that chapter. Tozer tends to dig deep on a topic. He's not difficult to understand, though he often explained things in a way I'm not used to. I usually needed to stop and think things over as I read it so I could contemplate his full meaning. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting collection, especially to those who enjoy Tozer's writings.


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.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Story Travelers Bible by Tracey Madder

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The Story Travelers Bible
by Tracey Madder
Illustrated by
Tim Crecelius


ISBN-13: 9781496409157
Hardcover: 356 pages
Publisher: Tyndale Kids
Released: March 1, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Join Lana, Munch, and Griffin on the adventure of a lifetime as they travel through the Holy Land and learn about the stories, cultures, people, and places of the Bible. High-quality illustrations, engaging sidebars, and scripture passages draw kids into the narrative.

The Story Travelers Bible teaches kids that the Bible is more than just a bunch of tales told by parents and Sunday school teachers, but the Bible documents God's work in and for His people from the beginning of time. The Story Travelers Bible will take kids on a ride through 85 Bible stories.


My Review:
The Story Travelers Bible is a children's Bible story collection for grades 3 - 7. The stories were told in present tense since the modern main characters (Lana, Munch, and Griffin) watch from a time-traveling bus as events happen. They started at creation and ended with John's revelation about the new heavens and new earth. The stories were usually tied together with a summary of what happened between these stories, so it reads as one continuous story.

There were side bars providing simple memory verses, some commentary about the events, and information about the various countries mentioned. Overall, the stories were retold pretty faithfully to the biblical versions. They skipped over things that parents might not want to explain, so Ruth simply goes to Boaz and he wakes up--no lying at his feet--and Rahab's occupation was never mentioned. Jael "quickly and quietly kills Sisera" without the details of how it was done.

The illustrations were simple in style yet looked more like real people than cartoons. They were also reasonably accurate in terms of what the people and things may have looked like. However, the illustrator didn't do a good job with early Genesis. It's hard to take the Noah account seriously as literal history when the illustration made it look like only a few animals would fit in the boat. Then the toy-like boat landed, apparently about to fall off off the top of a small mountain peak, with no way for the animals and people to get off the Ark.

Eve was shown sitting against the forbidden tree while she tells the serpent that they can't eat from the tree or even touch it. Oops! And both text and illustration had Adam asleep in Eve's lap, so he ended up eating the fruit without knowing where it came from. That's the one addition made to the biblical text that had theological ramifications, and I don't think the biblical text indicates that to be true. Anyway, except for early Genesis, this was one of the better children's Bible story collections that I've read.


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.


Monday, February 27, 2017

Really Woolly Easter Blessings by Bonnie Rickner Jensen

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Really Woolly Easter Blessings
by Bonnie Rickner Jensen


ISBN-13: 9780718092566
Boardbook: 40 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: Feb. 21, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through BookLook.

Book Description, Modified from BookLook:
Winter’s nap is over, and new life is all around! Flowers are blooming. Birds are chirping. And the Really Woolly characters are discovering God’s goodness all around them. Curl up with your little one, and join the fun while learning about the hope of Easter and springtime!

Adorable rhymes, sweet Bible verses, and prayer starters will make reading time a special moment for you and your child—to connect with each other.


My Review:
Really Woolly Easter Blessings is a Christian children's board book (apparently for ages 2-5 years old; I would have guessed a little older). Rather than a story, this book contains a series of rhymes. Each double-spread page contains a simple Bible verse, a fun rhyme based on that verse, and a very short prayer thanking God for that topic. The topics cover God's love and care for us (including what Jesus did for us on the cross) as well as new life and spring.

Due to the spring theme, the illustrations show the animal characters among lush, green grass and many flowers. I'm going to be reading this to a young one growing up in a city in the desert, so I'm not sure how well she'll be able to relate to the illustrations. However, I do feel that the author did an excellent job of making topics like God's forgiveness understandable to young children. Overall, I'd recommend this meaningful, enjoyable book of rhymes.


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:
"The LORD will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain that waters the ground" - Hosea 6:3

Grass of green and skies of blue,
Birds softly chirp their songs for you.
Tulips lift their sleepy heads
In yellows, purples, pinks, and reds.

We watch the seasons come and go,
But this, dear child, be sure to know:
The Lord is with you every day--
His perfect love is here to stay!


Dear God, I'm so glad Your love for me never changes or goes away.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Same Kind of Different As Me for Kids by Ron Hall, Denver Moore

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Same Kind of Different As Me for Kids
by Ron Hall, Denver Moore


ISBN-13: 9780718091798
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: Feb. 7, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through BookLook.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
This remarkable story shows what can happen when we choose to help. Based on the New York Times bestseller Same Kind of Different As Me, this book tells the true story of Denver Moore and Ron Hall, who also created the delightful illustrations in this book.


My Review:
Same Kind of Different As Me for Kids is juvenile nonfiction--the autobiography of Denver Moore told in a simple, brief way. He started by talking about his childhood on a cotton plantation in Louisiana during the Great Depression. When he grew up, he no longer wanted to be a sharecropper, so he traveled to a city. He couldn't get a job, so he became a homeless person who felt no one cared about him. Ron Hall and others eventually reached out to him and showed him God's love. Denver Moore then worked to help other homeless people. The lesson tagged on at the end is that "nobody can help everybody, but everybody can help somebody."

The illustrations are by Ron Hall, but they look like a child drew them. They're very simple and lack detail. These vague, child-like drawings seem more suited to a made-up story or a story told by a child. Since this is an autobiography told by adults, I'd have preferred clear illustrations showing what life was really like or even some pictures of these people and places (if any existed) to help ground the story in reality.

I like reading Christian autobiographies to children, and this was worth reading once. It wasn't quite what I was expecting, though.


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, February 13, 2017

God's Glory Alone by David VanDrunen

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God's Glory Alone
by David VanDrunen


ISBN-13: 9780310515807
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: Dec. 1, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
In God’s Glory Alone, renowned scholar David VanDrunen looks at the historical and biblical roots of the idea that all glory belongs to God alone. He examines the development of this theme in the Reformation, in subsequent Reformed theology and confessions, and in contemporary theologians who continue to be inspired by the conviction that all glory belongs to God.

Then he turns to the biblical story of God's glory, beginning with the pillar of cloud and fire revealed to Israel, continuing through the incarnation, death, and exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ, and culminating in Christ's Second Coming and the glorification of his people.

In light of these wonderful biblical themes he concludes by addressing several of today's great cultural challenges and temptations—such as distraction and narcissism—and reflecting on how commitment to God's glory alone fortifies us to live godly lives in this present evil age.


My Review:
God's Glory Alone is a study on "soli Deo gloria." The author looked briefly at what the reformers and those in the Reformed tradition said on the topic and then looked at the mentions of glory in Scripture. He then discussed why this declaration still matters to our lives today. I appreciate that he didn't make simple things difficult to understand or make difficult things too simple and so lose important tensions found in Scripture. Also, he did a careful study of all of Scripture rather than just picking the verses that support his ideas.

You'll probably find it easier to follow his reasoning if you've read the entire Bible through at least once. He tended to move through Scripture quickly, assuming you're familiar with what he's talking about. I agree with his overall points and could follow his reasoning, but I still paused every few pages to think over what he said because he packed so much in.

I believe the theology presented in this book would be accepted by most conservative Protestant denominations. His main focus was on God's glory and on God's attributes and actions that bring Him glory. He did look at Scripture that teaches that God will glorify believers. He pointed out that even our glorification is God's doing, not ours, so this ultimately glorifies God. To quote him (page 106), "Soli Deo gloria is about God and how he glorifies himself, but one magnificent way God glorifies himself is through glorifying us and enabling us to glorify him through faith, worship, and whole-hearted service to him and our neighbors."

I'd highly recommend this book to those interested in a deeper look at this theological theme.


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.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Book of Acts by Steven Ger

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The Book of Acts
by Steven Ger


ISBN-13: 9780899578187
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: AMG Publishers
Released: Feb. 1, 2004

Source: Bought.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Acts reveals the successes and defeats, the conquest and tragedies of the original band of Jesus' followers. In Acts we are able to share in the joy, the loss, the frustration, the passionate debate and the ultimate triumph of these pioneers of Christianity. These are ordinary people who, through the power and enablement of the Holy Spirit, accomplish extraordinary tings in the name of their messiah.

Steven Ger is a "Hebrew of Hebrews", a fourth-generation Jewish believer, whose Jewish-Christian perspective will bring new life to your understanding of the book of Acts.


My Review:
The Book of Acts is a Bible study--well, commentary--on Acts written by a Messianic Jew. He started by describing the background of Acts: who wrote it, when it was written, what was the purpose, etc. He then went through Acts, chapter-by-chapter. You look up and read a section of verses then read his commentary on them. He talked about the cultural and historical background to the verses, some meanings of original words, the timing of various events, and so on.

His Jewish-Christian perspective was interesting and brought out some insights that I haven't read in other commentaries. At times, he stated as if fact that a verse said something, but I didn't necessarily read it that way. He didn't always explain why he read it a certain way, and he didn't necessarily convince me to his viewpoint when he did. Still, it was interesting to get other takes on what a verse might mean. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting and readable commentary.


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.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Unashamed by Heather Davis Nelson

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Unashamed
by Heather Davis Nelson


ISBN-13: 9781433550706
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Crossway Books
Released: June 30, 2016

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Shame is everywhere. Whether related to relationships, body image, work, or a secret sin, we all experience shame. While shame manifests itself in fear, broken relationships, and regret, it ultimately points us to our fundamental need as fallen human beings: redemption.

Shame never disappears in solitude, and Heather Davis Nelson invites us to not only be healed of our own shame but also be a part of healing for others. She shines the life-giving light of the gospel on the things that leave us feeling worthless and rejected, giving us courage us to walk out of shame's shadows and offering hope for our bondage to brokenness. Through the gospel, we discover the only real and lasting antidote to shame: exchanging our shame for the righteousness of Christ alongside others on this same journey.


My Review:
Unashamed is an examination of shame and finding healing in Christ. By shame, she means feeling like you aren't good enough or aren't worthy. The author looked primarily at social, body, and performance shame--in finding your value in being accepted by others, in how you look, or in how successful you are.

She also looked at dealing with shame in your marriage relationship, how to parent without shaming your kids, and how the church can do a better job of being a place where people can share their shame struggles and heal. She helps you to identify your shame and it's origins, suggests talking about your struggle with safe friends, and applies the truths from Scripture to help you feel secure in the love God has for you in Christ.

I'm not married, have no children, and I don't struggle with the examples she uses so I didn't feel like this book directly touched upon my struggles. (I'm not bothered by people seeing my house in a lived-in state rather than perfect, I'm content with how I look, and so on.) However, she talks about very common areas of struggle for most people and the advice can apply to all "shame struggle" situations.


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.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Last Days of Jesus DVD series

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The Last Days Of Jesus
DVD-based Bible Study
Deeper Connections Series


ISBN-13: 9781628624328
DVD: 3 hours
Publisher: Rose Publishing
Released: Jan. 25, 2017

Source: Review video from the publisher.

Series Description, Modified from Publisher Website:
Gain a deeper understanding of Jesus’ last days before his crucifixion and resurrection. While most studies focus on laying out the events of Jesus' final days, this DVD study goes one step further to teach you the deeper connections that are rooted in the New Testament's first century context and provides twenty-first century applications.

This 6-session DVD study contains lessons on Jesus the Messiah, the Transfiguration, the Triumphal Entry, the Last Supper, The Trial and Death of Jesus, and Jesus' Resurrection. Each session features an expert scholar from the most prestigious seminaries in the country: Dr. Darrell Bock, Dr. Gary Burge, Dr. Scott Duvall, Professor Susan Hecht, Dr. Mark Strauss, and Dr. Matt Williams.

Perfect for small groups, Bible studies, or personal use. Leader and Participant Guides are also available which outline the video teaching with room for notes, and include photos, maps, additional information, and a five day personal Bible study guide after each lesson.


My Review:
The Last Days of Jesus is a 6-session DVD Bible study for small groups or personal use. Each session is 25-35 minutes long. It starts with 2-3 minutes of video on location in Israel (Ceasarea Philippi, Mount of Olives, Garden Tomb, etc.) with Margaret Feinberg. This is followed by audio of the study text from Matthew using the NIV Audio Bible. Then a New Testament scholar provides 17 minutes of commentary on the passage and 6-10 minutes of application. They walk you through the text while explaining first century context and cultural background information.

For example, Session 1 covers "Who do people say that I am?" and explained why people thought Jesus might be those people and what they expected of the Messiah. Dr. Williams also explained some phrases like "keys of the kingdom of heaven" and underlying word plays. Each session features a different speaker, so Session 1 on Matthew 16:13-28 features Dr. Matt Williams, Session 3 on Matthew 21:1-22 features Dr. Mark Strauss, and Session 6 on Matthew 28:1-10 features Dr. Gary Burge.

Overall, I thought that the three sessions I viewed were informative and interesting. I'd recommend this series as a small group Bible study.


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


Trailer Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCBeIqv12T4

Monday, January 16, 2017

Talk Yourself Happy by Kristi Watts

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Talk Yourself Happy
by Kristi Watts


ISBN-13: 9780718083861
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: Jan. 3, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through BookLook.

Book Description, Modified from BookLook:
How does a person bounce back after being beaten down personally, professionally, and emotionally? What impact do words, thoughts, and beliefs have in determining one’s level of happiness? Kristi Watts asked herself these questions after her marriage dissolved and she left a high-profile position as a cohost of The 700 Club. Known as the upbeat host who was always filled with joy and laughter, she soon stumbled into emotional pitfalls that left her discouraged, disappointed, and distant from God.

When one’s words focus on faulty perspectives, faith is quickly derailed, but by remembering God’s blessings and verbally claiming His promises, hearts change. Using biblical principles, Talk Yourself Happy illustrates the importance of relying on God to tame our tongues and train our minds, and it exposes the hidden traps that keep Christians from living lives of happiness, empowering readers with the ultimate transformation of their hearts.


My Review:
Talk Yourself Happy is a memoir about a dark period in the author's life and some lessons that God taught her through those trials. I'd expected the book to be focused on God's character and promises and contain a lot of Scripture quotes, but there's not much of this. The focus was mainly on the author and the hard things she went through.

The author came to realize that some of her attitudes and actions were standing in the way of God's blessings. There was an ongoing theme about not speaking negative thoughts aloud. I agree that words have power and that blaming or criticizing other people can stand in the way of your healing and joy. However, I felt burdened by the repeated idea that any negative thought will stand in the way of God blessing me--though I doubt the writers of the Psalms would agree with this idea.

Overall, though, her points were good ones. We feel happier when we remind ourselves of the things God has done for us (and others) and about his character than when we focus on our problems. Reaching out to help others, showing compassion and forgiveness, praising God, and seeking God's perspective about our identity and situation are all good ways to find happiness. So, overall, I'd recommend this book, especially if you're interested in "what ever happened to Kristi Watts?"


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, January 9, 2017

Fear Fighting by Kelly Balarie

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Fear Fighting
by Kelly Balarie


ISBN-13: 9780801019340
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Baker Books
Released: Jan. 3, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
We all live with fear. It hangs around, whispering in our ears, reminding us of all we can't do or will never be. But that's not the end of the story. We also have a God who draws close to say, Fear not. I am with you. This Spirit transforms us into fear fighters--women breaking free of trepidation to find bold dedication to God's peace-, purpose- and joy-filled callings.


My Review:
Fear Fighting is about overcoming feelings of insecurity, shame, failure, and unworthiness. The author used a very pep-talk tone and included many short one-liners like "Let blind faith be your guide" and "Your stain is really your gain." She wrote very poetically, which I realize some people like but I prefer authors to be clear about their meaning. She could also get wordy, and I sometimes lost track of what her point was by the end of a poetical passage. So this wasn't my favorite writing style, but others may love it.

The overall idea seemed to be that, if we follow God's ways and humble ourselves, the result is a courageous, bold, Spirit-led life. That we just need to take courage and fear will fall away because God is eagerly waiting to rescue us if we ask for help. She had some good points and suggested some things you can do. But I guess I was hoping for more focus on Bible verses than on pep and metaphors.


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, January 3, 2017

Shalom in Psalms by Jeffrey Seif, Glenn Blank, Paul Wilbur

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Shalom in Psalms:
A Devotional from the Jewish Heart of the Christian Faith
by Jeffrey Seif,
Glenn Blank,
Paul Wilbur


ISBN-13: 9780801019470
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Baker Books
Released: Jan. 3, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
The ancient Jewish life-giving balm in Psalms helps us recover our equilibrium in a world where so much knocks us off balance and steals our shalom. This devotional and Tree of Life Version of the Bible come from the heart of today's Messianic Jewish movement to provide the Jewish essence of Psalms in a way that promises shalom for the heart and soul.


My Review:
Shalom in Psalms is a devotional that works through the Psalms. Each devotional started with one of the psalms in the Tree of Life Version followed by commentary by one (or more) of the three authors. They focused on what the psalm was saying and how we can relate to it even now. Hebrew words or phrases that don't translate well into English were further explained to help readers understand the psalm. Also, as the authors are Messianic Jews, they point out how the Messiah is seen in the psalms and give a Jewish viewpoint on some repeated themes in the psalms.

I liked these devotions and felt encouraged by them. After reading a bunch of Christian books that imply that good Christians are joyful and evangelistic at all times, it was nice to read a devotional acknowledging that circumstances can get us distressed, depressed, or angry. But the psalms also point back to God as our Savior even when we wonder why He's "hiding His face" or taking so long. Overall, I'd highly recommend this devotional.


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.