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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Fire Prophet Review

Fire Prophet (Son of Angels) Description:

What if you could actually see angels and fallen angels engaging in battle—and you were expected to join the fight?
It’s been one year since Jonah Stone and his sister, Eliza, discovered that their mother is a nephilim, the product of a union between a human and a fallen angel, which makes them and their little brother, Jeremiah,quarterlings, or one-quarter angel. After embarking on an epic journey to rescue their mother and the other nephilim, who were kidnapped by fallen angels, the Stone kids have enjoyed a little peace and quiet.
But when Jonah and Eliza are attacked by fallen angels at school, they learn that quarterlings all over the world are being targeted, and separating them from their parents is the only way to keep them safe. The kids undergo special training to help them discover their own unique angelic gifts, which come in handy when they embark on a mission to find a mysterious prophet who they believe holds the key to Abaddon's defeat in a massive battle between good and evil.
Parents today are looking for fiction that makes Christianity and the Bible exciting for their kids. This series is the first Christian answer to Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the Kane Chronicles, the Secret Series, and other middle grade series packed with adventure, action, and supernatural fights. But the message is solidly scriptural in that God alone is always in control.

My Review:
You may remember way back in January when I reviewed the first book in this series Spirit Fighter.  (If not just click the title and go read it!)   Jerel Law seems to have found his stride in this book.  Jonah and Eliza are introduced to other quarterlings in this book and we learn that not all of them have made the decision to follow God.  All of the quarterlings begin training for the battle to come, the ultimate battle between good and evil.  Through this training we are introduced to a few more weapons, some unique gifts to particular people such as the belt of truth, and others include a weapon even us fully mortal followers have-prayer.

While I do find it unusual that the parents of this children would so easily leave them after being told they are in danger, but they trust the angels to do what is right.  It also clears the way for the Stone siblings to set off together and save the day with the help and guidance of Elohim.

There are many lessons to be learned in this installment, the power of truth, the power of prayer, that each of us are gifted differently and one gift is not better than another, that we can choose to be deceived-and choose to turn back, to name a few.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and I would have to say that my 13 year old daughter did too since she finished it in just a few days.  Two thumbs up!

Friday, December 14, 2012

God Gave Us Christmas Review

God Gave Us Christmas Description:

As Little Cub and her family prepare to celebrate the most special day of the year, the curious young polar bear begins to wonder… 

“Who invented Christmas?”
Mama’s answer only leads to more questions like “Is God more important than Santa?” So she and Little Cub head off on a polar expedition to find God and to see how he gave them Christmas. Along the way, they find signs that God is at work all around them. Through Mama’s gentle guidance, Little Cub learns about the very first Christmas and discovers that…

Jesus is the best present of all.
This enchanting tale provides the perfect opportunity to help young children celebrate the true meaning of Christmas and to discover how very much God loves them.

My Review:
Lisa's God Gave Us series is quickly becoming one of my favorites.  From God Gave Us You to God Gave Us Love and so many more I have fallen in love with the beautiful stories, gorgeous illustrations but mostly with the message included in each book - Every good and perfect thing comes from above.

In this installment of the series little cub has questions about Christmas, and Mama Bear takes him out on an adventure to discover what Christmas is really about.  From the beginning when Little Cub asks if God is more important than Santa I knew this would be a story that children could relate to, and when Mama answers, "Oh yes, much more important!" I knew that I would love it.

I like that this book doesn't dismiss Santa (keep in mind we have not told our daughter that Santa is real, we don't have presents from Santa on Christmas and he doesn't put candy in stockings in our house, but you can't escape this jolly old man in the US so my daughter has a casual belief in him) but it does get the point across that "Santa Claus reminds us about many good things like generosity and care.  But it is God and Jesus that we celebrate most come Christmas.  We always want to thank God for giving us Christmas."  Perfectly said! 

I also like that we are reminded that "Jesus is a present for everyone, grumpy or happy, mean or kind.  God gave us all Christmas."  Children can easily associate the concept of Santa bringing presents for good boys and girls with the gift of Jesus, and think He only came for the good boys and girls as well.  This opens the door for parents to talk to their children about how we are each imperfect, but God loves us so much He made a way for us to be with Him.

This book has been added to my Christmas reading collection, along with The Crippled Lamb and Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Godwink Stories review

Godwink Stories: A Devotional Description:

Building on the themes in his popular book When God Winks, SQuire Rushnell shares real-life stories that are certain to uplift and encourage you.

The stories in this book reaffirm that godwinks happen to everyone. We just need to learn how to see them, allow them to unfold, and accept them as direct, person-to-person communications from God to each of us.
As you’ll see, those so-called coincidences that you’d been dismissing so easily really do mean something. And you need to pay attention. They are like unopened gifts that have been placed upon your doorstep.

You will be amazed to read how every joy, every hurt, and every worry that happens to you has already been written about in the Bible. Godwink Stories simply draws upon the parallel between the stories of real people and God’s wisdom in the scriptures.

Godwink Stories can be read in various ways. You can read the book cover to cover. Or follow along each week for a year. It’s also perfect to read for a pick-me-up story that fits your need of the day.

Whether you’re looking for encouragement in a time of need or a story that speaks of joy, there’s a godwink story just for you.
Godwink Stories offers weekly readings of godwinks and miracles to encourage and inspire you in every situation. These true stories— from ordinary people—provide:

  • Messages of “don’t give up”
  • Heartfelt need for love and guidance
  • Hope in the midst of medical crises
  • “Just in time” moments
  • Peace in times of sorrow
  • Tender love stories
  • Amazing answers to prayer
My Review:

This book is in response to When GOD Winks: How the Power of Coincidence Guides Your Life also written by Squire Rushnell.  Readers had read the first book and submitted their stories of when God winked at them.  Rushnell then gathered these stories and chose 52 of them to include in this book.  You can expect to read a Bible verse, and introduction to the theme, the submitted God Wink story, and then Rushnell's response.  Think Chicken Soup for the Soul with more Bible focus.

The stories are uplifting, including ones from Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel), Bill Bright (founder of Campus Crusaders for Christ), and many from people just like you and me.  They are a great reminder that while He is the God of the universe, He also takes time for the small details as well; the little things that may mean nothing to the person that is standing beside you, but means everything to you.  Authentic, real moments with God shared by others to remind us that God truly is with us every minute of every day.

If you need a pick me up then this is the book for you!  A great gift for a friend as well!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Walking with Bilbo review

Walking with Bilbo: A Devotional Adventure through the Hobbit
Book Description:

The author of Walking with Frodo takes readers on an adventure of faith with this devotional that relates themes from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit to living the Christian life. Unlike the fateful quest Frodo was asked to carry out, Bilbo's journey came as an unexpected adventure. Readers will be reminded that God chooses us to be unlikely heroes in the adventure of life.

My Review:

This devotional is intended to span 22 days, which doesn't sound like much, but it packs a wollop in those days.  Arthur draws from  The Hobbit as a starting point and manages to include Scripture, real life examples and thought provoking questions that will cause you to really reflect on your relationship with Jesus.

While having read The Hobbit will make this a much more enjoyable devotional, it isn't really absolutely necessary.  The devotions simply take a scene or event in the story and use it as a starting point to reveal a Biblical truth, from the fact that we are chosen and selected by God, to the importance of honesty, to the fact that God never leaves us stranded, and what it takes to find our true identity.

This would be great to include with The Hobbit when gift giving, and it is also a great book to add to your own library.  Thanks to Tyndale for the opportunity to review it!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Daughter of Jerusalem review

Daughter of Jerusalem description:

In Daughter of Jerusalem, readers will quickly identify with Mary Magdalene - a woman of deep faith who used her wealth and influence to serve Jesus. 

This fictionalized story of Mary Magdalene is, in the truest sense of the word, an inspirational novel for modern people who are looking to renew in themselves the message of Christ. 

It's the greatest story ever lived, told by one of the most famous women who ever lived, and it's a page-turner. Joan Wolf's years of success as a novelist enable her to combine storytelling and a faith plot in this beautifully written biblical fiction.

My Review:

I hate to say, that while well written, I did not like this story.  Had Wolf's main character had any other name than Mary Magdalene I probably would have enjoyed it much more, but alas it did not.  The dislike is due to the disparity between the way I picture/view Mary Magdalene and the very fictionalized life that Wolf gives her.

First, this book seems to combine MANY Mary's (with the exception of Jesus' mother) mentioned in the Bible into one being.  In this story she is Martha and Lazarus' half sister who ends up living in Magdala, who also annoints Jesus with expensive oil/perfume.  However, Jesus never drives demons from her in the book.

Second, Mary Magdalene is very wealthy in this book due to being unwillingly married to a wealthy man who subsequently dies in such a way that we are led to believe Mary's lover caused.  Personally, I had never considered Mary Magdalene to be a wealthy woman.  Granted, that is my own perception and I can't very well tell you that she was, in fact, a poor woman.  What I can say is that the Bible often depicts those who are possessed by demons as being beggars, ostracized by family and friends.  If Jesus cast demons from Mary Magdalene, it isn't much of a leap to believe that she too was without means after being ostracized.

Third, this book seems to rely heavily on apocryphal texts.  Mary Magdalene is elevated as being the only one of Jesus followers who truly understood what he was saying; she is the one Jesus loved more than the others.  When the disciples decide to elect another disciple to replace Judas, Mary is suggested in addition to Barnabas and Matthias.  It is decided that she has a "special" task and her name is not entered.

These are just a few reasons why the Mary in this book rang false for me as Mary Magdalene.  That being said, the story was well written, the characters (with the exception of Mary) were believable.  In all honesty, if I didn't feel that this would give a false representation of the Biblical account of Mary and her relationship with Jesus, I would probably recommend this book.  Had the author chosen to give the main character a different name, one that isn't referred to in the Bible, this would have been an excellent book on how Jesus affected those around him.  Unfortunately that is not the case here.

I do realize that this is a work of fiction, but there is enough truth in her to truly confuse someone who doesn't have a strong foundation...and that is dangerous.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Nutcracker review

Nutcracker description:

The tale of Nutcracker, written by E.T.A. Hoffmann in 1816, has fascinated and inspired artists, composers, and audiences for almost two hundred years. It has retained its freshness because it appeals to the sense of wonder we all share.

Maurice Sendak designed brilliant sets and costumes for the Pacific Northwest Ballet's Christmas production of Nutcracker and created even more magnificent pictures especially for this book. He joined with the eminent translator Ralph Manheim to produce this illustrated edition of Hoffmann's wonderful tale, destined to become a classic for all ages.

The world of Nutcracker is a world of pleasures. Maurice Sendak's art illuminates the delights of Hoffmann's story in this rich and tantalizing treasure.

My Review:

We all know the story, a young girl dreams of a magical world with an evil mouse queen, a heroic nutcracker, of a godfather who brought wonderful gifts and had fanciful stories to tell.  The story is not new, having been written in 1816 it has been around long enough that it has become a part of Christmas for many of us.
I will say that this book, at just over 100 pages, includes so much more than the ballet productions that we see around December.  While I love those, I am so glad I was able to actually read the story.  The extra details really give it depth, and the beautiful illustrations make this a book that is not only appealing mentally but visually as well.

This would be a wonderful book to read during the Christmas season with a young child, as it is a bit long for them to read by themselves, or to gift to an older child.  I can honestly say that this is what will be on the nightstand in my child's room this year!  I may have to look up some words first (a hussar's jacket is one worn by a light cavalry unit, a scaramouche is an italian clown character, and a palfrey is a highly valued riding horse) but it is well worth it to share this classic story with the next generation!

I will say that this book, at just over 100 pages, includes so much more than the ballet productions that we see around December.  While I love those, I am so glad I was able to actually read the story.  The extra details really give it depth, and the beautiful illustrations make this a book that is not only appealing mentally but visually as well. 

This would be a wonderful book to read during the Christmas season with a young child, as it is a bit long for them to read by themselves, or to gift to an older child.  I can honestly say that this is what will be on the nightstand in my child's room this year!  I may have to look up some words first (a hussar's jacket is one worn by a light cavalry unit, a scaramouche is an italian clown character, and a palfrey is a highly valued riding horse) but it is well worth it to share this classic story with the next generation!

Friday, November 16, 2012

If We Survive Review

If We Survive (Homelanders) Description:

They came on a mission of mercy, but now they’re in a fight for their lives.

High schooler Will Peterson and three friends journeyed to Central America to help rebuild a school. In a poor, secluded mountain village, they won the hearts of the local people with their energy and kindness.

But in one sudden moment, everything went horribly wrong. A revolution swept the country. Now, guns and terror are everywhere—and Americans are being targeted as the first to die.

Will and his friends have got to get out fast. But streets full of killers . . . hills patrolled by armies . . . and a jungle rife with danger stand between them and the border. Their one hope of escape lies with a veteran warrior who has lost his faith and may betray them at any moment. Their one dream is to reach freedom and safety and home.

If they can just survive.

My Review:

You may remember Andrew Klavan from a review earlier this year for Crazy Dangerous; I liked Klavan then and I still like him now.  The writing is authentic and he really seems to capture the point of view of Will as he struggles to come to terms with the world he is suddenly enveloped in when everything goes horribly wrong.

Admittedly, the book starts slow, and I really wasn't sure I would enjoy it.  Klavan writes in first person and the book begins with Will describing the people who are with him.  I wasn't impressed.  However, don't give up.  This section only serves to give you a baseline, and it helps you to see how each character is affected by the events going on around them.

This book has more of a Christian flavor than Crazy Dangerous did.  While it doesn't go deep, Will is constantly reminding himself to pray throughout the book.  It's faith in action throughout!  At one point *spoiler* Will is forced to shoot and kill a rebel that was preparing to shoot him and his friends.  The conflict he feels trying to reconcile taking the life of another, someone's son or father, is real.

In an environment where there aren't pretty lines that divide the good guys from the bad guys, Klavan introduces you to real people and the difficulty of trying to reconcile their idealized world with the real one.  A great read!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Everything Review

Everything: What You Give and What You Gain to Become Like Jesus  Book Description

“I don’t write this book as a condemnation or as a sermon. The last thing I want to do is provide a ‘how to be the best Christian in ten easy steps’ guide. I pen these words as a fellow struggler who is learning that what we think about God matters, how we allow Him to reign in our hearts matters, and how we obey Him in the moment matters. It all matters. Everything.”

Author and speaker Mary DeMuth has been abused, foreclosed, abandoned, and betrayed. She has been pressed and drained till it was too much . . .

But it was just enough to bring her to a place of surrender, piece by precious piece. In that surrender, she found the freedom of giving everything to God. And through Scripture, community, and the work of the Holy Spirit, she gives it all over again, every day.

In this gentle and challenging book, DeMuth describes the process and the nuances that shape us to be more like Christ. Her words are clear, vulnerable, and thought provoking, and every chapter is infused with Scripture.

Most of all, DeMuth provides personal and practical evidence that there is no greater pursuit than Christ. We must surrender everything, but it does not compare to the Everything He is, the Everything He gives.

My Review:

When extended an opportunity to review this book, I was at first hesitant. I had never read anything by Mary Demuth. I knew nothing of her life or her walk with Jesus. I visited her blog and was intrigued, so I accepted the book. In a little over 200 pages Ms. Demuth truly does cover close to everything.

In three sections (head, heart and hands) we learn not only what Jesus has to offer, but the true sacrifice of following. From the truth that, "if we obey God it is going to cost other people more than it costs us," to the reality that we have to relinquish control "the seven-letter word that demolishes everything". Ms. Demuth backs up her assertions with sound doctrine and direct Bible quotes as well as with her own personal experiences.

Each of the 18 chapters (six per section) ends with reflection questions to help you dig deeper and personalize what you have read. I have to admit, though, that my favorite chapter is the epilogue. Here Ms. Demuth pulls it all together and her honesty really shines. This is where she admits to the two Mary's. One wants to live an all out radical Jesus following life. The other is needy, ordinary, beset and flimsy. Oh how I can relate to that! She tells us that our growth from the ordinary to the everything follower is "in the moment-by-moment decisions we make for or against Jesus in our lives." How true! It isn't in the missionary trip we have been planning for years, or any other great thing we plan, but in the decision to take a few moments out of your day and be Jesus to your neighbor by checking in on them, or to the person in line ahead of you that just realized she didn't have enough money to pay her grocery bill (as her children cling to her leg and the meager amount of food sits bagged with a cashier questioning what she would like to do). "Jesus is modeled being a servant and giving up one's will," I pray that I better give up so that I can closer follow the One who is my everything.

Friday, November 9, 2012

the High Calling newsletter...

I know, I know...this is where I usually tell you all about the books I am reading.  But this is reading too, just shorter snippets, so hang with me!

I was recently asked to review the newsletter published weekly by the High Calling, an online community that  was founded upon the belief that God cares about our daily work, and not just the work you do at work but the work you do in your family and your culture as well.  Weekly the editors of the community assemble a newsletter "pointing more than 20,000 subscribers to the most encouraging faith and work content on (the) site, in (the) community, and on the web.  In general, (they) promote an audio message from Howard Butt, several articles from The High Calling, a new video from The High Calling, and several community articles from around the community and other important sites." (quoted from the website)

So what is it all about?  Basically the newsletter is a weekly pick me up to point you back in the direction of God.  While I had never heard of Howard Butt before, I found the very short audio messages presented in the newsletters to be encouraging reminders.  Topics such as having the right idea at the wrong time (did you know pla-doh was invented to be wallpaper cleaner??) and that careers are full of mountains and valleys (Tom Landry only led the Cowboys to victory 8 times the first 3 years he coached the team!).  

The newsletter does tend to focus its articles towards those who work outside the home, which made it not as appealing to me(of course it is being marketed to those who work outside the home!).  However, even if you are a SAHM, don't write this off just yet.  The articles that DO relate to family and community are worth the time it takes to skim through those related to work.  And while you are at it, even the work articles have good points that can be incorporated into the life of a stay at homer.

If you are looking for something to give you some highlights and encouragement, but don't have the time or inclination to skim through the website, this newsletter is for your.  If you are looking for an online community that will encourage you to grow closer to God in all areas of your life, you may want to check out the website or the Facebook page.  You can also sign up to receive the newsletter free of charge by visiting

Please note, I was asked to review this newsletter by Handlebar Publishing.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Jesus Calling Bible Storybook
Jesus Calling Bible Storybook Description:

Jesus is calling out to our hearts, and you can hear His voice in every story in the Bible. These carefully selected stories are paired with new children’s devotions from Sarah Young and will help young hearts understand God’s grand plan to send His Son, Jesus, to save His children and prepare a place for us in heaven. 

Bestselling author Sarah Young has touched millions of lives through her devotionals based on Scripture and written as though Jesus is speaking directly to the reader. This book will lead God’s children, young and old, to talk to Jesus through prayer and to listen to His voice speaking love to their hearts.

My Review:

I LOVE Sarah Young's way of presenting God's promises to us in a personal way.  I first discovered Ms. Young when I read 40 Days With Jesus: Celebrating His Presence, which prompted me to purchase the year long devotional (Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence). When she published Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions For Kids I bought it! I type up the devotionals and add a picture to them and include them in my daughter's lunch box every day. When I saw this title,Jesus Calling Bible Storybook I was excited to have one to share with my preschooler.

But this one is so much more than the others! It includes 49 Old Testament stories and 51 New Testament stories presented with beautiful illustrations (thank you Caroline Farias)and a great age appropriate narration. According to Young this book was "designed to help young children come to know God's Word and enjoy the Presence of Jesus in their lives. This book tells the wonderful story of God's great love for His people." I have to say that this has definitely been accomplished.

The Bible portions that have been included show God's love from creation, through Abraham, David, and finally the life of Jesus as well a reminder that "one day, things will become perfect the way God wants them to be. Someday God's love-brighter than the brightest sun-will be the only light we the vision that Jesus showed to John, God and his children lived together as one perfect, happy family--the way it was supposed to be back in the Garden with Adam and Eve all those years ago." I found the stories to follow the Biblical account very closely and that made me happy. So many children's Bibles turn the accounts into fairy tales.

What I especially enjoyed is that at the end of each story is a Bible verse that corresponds to the events as well as a devotional in the expected Saray Young style. For example, the devotion after the story of Ruth and Naomi reads: Everything that happens fits into My plan for good if you love Me. Trust Me with big things, like your friendships and future dreams. You can also trust Me for little, everyday things. Remember how I took care of Ruth and Naomi. Nothing is too big or too small for Me. So talk with me about everything.

And the watercolor illustrations are absolutely GORGEOUS! I would love to frame some of them!

If you have a young child, this is a book you need to have on your bookshelf!  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Soul's Gate review

   Soul's Gate (A Well Spring Novel)  Description:

What if you could travel inside another person’s soul? To battle for them. To be part of Jesus healing their deepest wounds. To help set them free to step boldly into their divinely designed future.

Thirty years ago that’s exactly what Reece Roth did. Until tragedy shattered his life and ripped away his future.  Now God has drawn Reece out of the shadows to fulfill a prophecy spoken over him three decades ago. A prophecy about four warriors with the potential to change the world . . . if Reece will face his deepest regret and teach them what he has learned.

They gather at a secluded and mysterious ranch deep in the mountains of Colorado, where they will learn to see the spiritual world around them with stunning clarity—and how to step into the supernatural.  Their training is only the beginning. The four have a destiny to pursue a freedom even Reece doesn’t fully fathom. But they have an enemy hell-bent on destroying them and he’ll stop at nothing to keep them from their quest for true freedom and the coming battle of souls.

My Review:

If you enjoyed Frank Peretti's Piercing the Darkness or This Present Darkness then will probably enjoy Soul's Gate as well.  Spiritual awakening, fighting the forces of evil, realizing the power we have through Jesus to overcome, this book has it all!

The only drawback about this book is that it wanders a bit farther into mystical than I would like.  While the author freely admits at the end of the book that he does not believe it is possible to travel into the soul of another and battle there, that is the HUGE premise of this book.  It is a wonderful thought, but ultimately our soul battles are our own.

The characters are great, the hurts that must be overcome are relateable (is that even a word?!) and you will probably find yourself in one of them.  (Although I have to admit that the way I pictured them was NOTHING like the actors in the above book trailer.)  It was a good read, and a great reminder that we are all called to battle the forces of evil, we all have the power of Christ that we can use during these battles, and ultimately the battle has already been won!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

1,000 Days review

Book Description

An opportunity to meet Jesus Christ like never before.

Have you ever thought that when Jesus Christ came to earth more than two thousand years ago, he could have simply given us salvation—period!—and never done another single thing? Jesus Christ could have chosen to be born of a virgin, live for 33 years in relative obscurity, die on the cross, be buried, and rise from the dead three days later, and still give us the opportunity for salvation without doing any of the things we read about in the gospels.

Yet there was more.

For three years—roughly 1,000 days—Jesus served in public ministry while on earth. He didn’t need to do this ministry, yet he did anyway, and that’s the key for us. This intentionality implies that there is a lot of information in Scripture that we need to grapple with. We need to understand what Jesus said and did during his 1,000-day public ministry, so we can apply his teachings to our lives today.
What makes these 1000 days of Christ so vitally important?
Jesus’ public ministry was to help us understand what true love is all about—both for God and for other people. When we love God and others first, the rest of life falls into place: our possessions, our ambitions, our hopes and our dreams. Jesus modeled everything he taught, and his invitation is to make his mission our mission too.

My Review:

Falwell's book covers the roughly 1,000 days of Jesus ministry here on this earth in 15 short chapters with titles such as:  Jesus Close-Up,  The Way of Radical Love, When Temptation Meets Endurance, and Beyond Hype to name a few.  The chapters include a short "modern day" story, references to one of Jesus teachings, and Falwell's explaination of what is going on, as well as reflection questions.  In addition a Bible Study guide and a list of 100 "events" in Jesus life.

I have to be honest in that I was not a fan of the Jonathan Falwell's father, Reverend Jerry Falwell.  I decided to read this book based upon the recomendation of a friend's opinion of Jonathan Falwell's preaching.  Also, along the honesty line, this book was not what I had expected after reading the description.  I had though that it would be more about Jesus life and less of a "lesson" type book. 

While this does include many highlights of Jesus life I didn't feel like "Falwell persents the unique chance to study this miracle, looking closely at those last three years in Jesus' life and revealing vital information from the gospels for our lives today."  I didn't "meet Jesus like never before" as the dust jacket claimed I would.  I felt like it was more about what Falwell could tell me about Jesus than actually about Jesus. 

In addition I felt as if Falwell included many of the original Greek words in his text unnecessarily, and at times I really felt he stretched his explainations of them.  For example when discussing Matthew 5:8 (Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.) He tells us that the Greek word for see is optanomai.  "It simply means "see."  It's hard to elaborate on that definition.  The word optanomai is the root of our English word optimal.  So Jesus was saying that the pure in heart...will have an optimal view of God." (p. 46)  Really?  So the word "see" means "see" and he takes a leap and tells us that because optimal has the same root word it is interchangeable.  These words are doublets, and not all doublets (words with a common root in the same language) are interchangeable.  (an example is entire and integer both from the Latin word integrum meaning whole)  Another example is on page 56 where we are told the Greek word translated as peace means peace.  Falwell seems to give up the idea of showing off his knowledge (or access to Strong's Concordance) early in the book though as it doesn't continue throughout. 

I found the writing dull at times, and some of the story connections were weak.  It wasn't a book I enjoyed reading, nor was it one I felt I learned from.  However, for those who like his style, don't let that deter you.  He does a good job of including scripture to support his thoughts and obviously has a sincere heart for God.  Unfortunately his style just wasn't for me.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Leading the Way through Ephesians review

Book Description:

Throughout the book of Ephesians, Paul refers to "the riches of God's grace," "our riches in Christ," and "the riches of His glory" as he reminds believers of the spiritual treasures they already possess in Christ.
Leading the Way Through Ephesians applies these great truths in such practical areas of the Christian life as
  • enduring trials, suffering, and persecution
  • maintaining the unity of the church through Christian love
  • living out the gospel in our marriages and family relationships
  • praying with power
  • maintaining our armor against the attacks of Satan
Through sound teaching, vibrant illustrations, and a brisk conversational style that applies God's truth to the realities of the twenty-first century, Leading the Way Through Ephesians will show readers the way to a stronger, more active, more dynamic faith.

My Review:

I used this book as a resource for my women's Bible study group when we were studying Ephesians and absolutely loved it.  Youssef does a phenomenal job of incorporating modern day examples with Bible text and storytelling.  I found myself engaged and digger deeper into the Bible than I might have otherwise.  I began preparing using a different Ephesians study and found myself referring more and more to Youseff's book as I went along.

This book takes you through Ephesians not only chapter by chapter, but subject by subject.  This means the 6 chapters of Ephesians translates into 14 chapters in this book with titles such as "you have all you need" and "from darkness to light", "God's plan for marriage", "God's plan for raising children", and "God's plan for your workplace".  

I found that the chapters were a bit long to be considered a devotional reading, and they would have benefited from some review/reflection questions at the end of each chapter to be a better devotional.  However it was a great commentary.  

You can purchase Leading the Way Through Ephesians (Leading the Way Through the Bible) on Amazon as well as at your local Christian bookstore.

Learn more about Michael Youssef and his ministry at Leading the Way.  

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Courageous Teen review

Courageous Teens is a student-focused presentation of Courageous Living by Michael Catt, senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church and executive producer of the hit film Courageous.

Catt brings fresh insight to “stories of people in the Bible who displayed great courage when it would have been easier to play it safe . . . (who) challenge me to keep moving forward. They demand that I examine my priorities and deal with anything that brings fear to my heart.”
Teen readers will be inspired to resolve to live for God as they learn more about Abraham, Moses, Nehemiah, Ruth, Daniel, and many more.
Best-selling youth market author Amy Parker arranges the heart-stirring material into four categories: Courageous Faith, Courageous Leadership, Courageous Priorities, and Courageous Influence. Discussion questions are also included at the end of each chapter.

My Review:
First some background. 

Courageous is a movie about fathers, a call to action for them to lead their families.  If you haven't seen the movie or read the book, I highly recommend it.  But the call to be courageous isn't just for fathers, it's for all of us.  That is what this book addresses.

"In this decade of American Idol, we need a generation who will not worship the gods of this world and will serve the one true God."   The young people of today will be the leaders, the fathers and mothers of the next generation.  This is their call to step up and stand up for the one true God.  Catt skillfully combines scenes from the movie, Bible examples, and real life to illustrate how teens can step up to the plate.  After all, "God has called us to think differently than the world thinks.  But until right stands up and looks like right, then wrong doesn't take it into consideration." 

I  found this book to be a great reminder that we each have a purpose here, and that quite often God calls us outside of our comfort zone to act for Him.  That way we can give Him all the glory.  This would ba a perfect book for individual or small group study, and despite the "teen" title, even younger children can use and apply the teachings in this book.  My preteen daughter is reading it now and with each chapter she gets more excited about how she can be courageous for God.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Greater review

Book Description:

Are you ready to open your imagination to the possibility that God has a vision for your life that is greater?  We all have honest moments when we’re gripped by a desire to feel that what we’re doing matters more. That who we are matters more.

And according to one of the most shocking verses in the Bible, Jesus wants the very same thing for every one of us:
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” -John 14:12
That single promise—“even greater things than these”—should be enough to shatter our acceptance of spiritual mediocrity. Unfortunately, most believers have only tried and given up on vague notions of greatness…then settled into a life that’s just good enough.
Good enough = Baseline living that is marked by mediocrity, stuck in spiritual survival mode, and controlled by complacency.
Greatness = Vague, unrealistic aspirations of doing better that don’t work in real life and lead to endless frustration.
But there is a third way.
Greater = The life-altering understanding that God is ready to accomplish a greatness in your life that is entirely out of human reach—beyond anything you see in yourself on your best day, but exactly what God has seen in you all along.
In Greater, Pastor Steven Furtick draws on the biblical story of Elisha to empower you to:
   • Take a God-given dream from idea to reality
   • Stretch your limited resources and abilities in ways you never thought possible
   • Replace the images of yourself that keep you feeling stuck in the past
   • Make a significant impact with your life starting today, rather than making endless plans for tomorrow that you never get around to

If you’re tired of being ordinary, it’s time to dream bigger. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about where to begin, it’s time to start smaller. It’s time to ignite God’s Greater vision for your life.

My Review:

First, I have never attended a Pastor Furtick's church, had never listened to one of his sermons before this book, and I didn't realize that he was as well known as he apparantly is.  I read this book for two reasons.  First, the topic really interested me.  **Seriously, why else would I read a book!  ;o) **  Second, Melissa Taylor was going to be leading an online Bible study using this book in November 2012 (you can find out more at ). 

Let me start by simply saying my Kindle had so many highlights that I really think someone could have read just my highlights and totally understand the book!  It was awesome!  From the beginning when Furtick says, "You can't keep living like this.  It's not fine for you to settle for going every day to a job you'd prefer to quit, doing decent work, being a pretty good person compared to your neighbor, paying your bills on time and sporadically reading the Bible as though it's your guide to the great things God did in other people's lives in the past." I knew this was going to be a life changing book. 

Furtick takes us through the story of Elisha and his path to "greater" and shows us how we too can walk that path.  From burning our plows to raising an axhead from a river, to learning that even though we may be surrounded by enemies we always have more with us that against us if we open our eyes and look around.  Furtick tells us that like Elisha, we will come to a point where we are "standing at the crossing point to your future...parents, friends, maybe your spouse, maybe your children...are waiting for you to do the things only you can do by the power of God's Spirit.  They are waiting for God to touch them through you, even if they don't know it yet."

We are reminded that we each have a purpose, a calling, in our lives.  We can not simply stand in the middle of the path and watch the world flow around us and think that we are making a difference in Jesus name.  We are called to be greater than that and Pastor Furtick inspires us to discover where our path to greater starts and begin walking, no begin RUNNING, on that path!  Greater isn't something only "special" people should strive for, it is a calling for us all.  If you are looking to improve your relationship with God then this is a great kickstart!

You can find out more about the book here

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The River Review

Book Description:

“You were made for The River . . .”

Gabriel Clarke is mysteriously drawn to The River, a ribbon of frothy white water carving its way through steep canyons high in the Colorado Rockies. The rushing waters beckon him to experience freedom and adventure.

But something holds him back—the memory of the terrible event he witnessed on The River when he was just five years old—something no child should ever see.

Chains of fear and resentment imprison Gabriel, keeping him from discovering the treasures of The River. He remains trapped, afraid to take hold of the life awaiting him.

When he returns to The River after years away, his heart knows he is finally home. His destiny is within reach. Claiming that destiny will be the hardest—and bravest—thing he has ever done.

My Review:

Let me start by saying, I am NOT in to rafting at all, which is what some may think this book centers on.  While it does take place around a river, and while rafting does seem to be a central theme, you don't have to even have a working knowledge of rafting to "get" this book.

We have all experienced something in our life that has dramatically affected us.  Fortunately that doesn't include the death of a parent at a young age for many of us, but that also doesn't keep you from "getting" this book.

Gabriel loses his dad at the age of 5 in a terrible accident.  As a result he leaves everything behind and moves to the complete opposite side of what life had been for him.  He grows up refusing to live life in a lot of ways as a result of the accident.  He has few friends, tends to live inside of himself, and just goes through the motions.  How many of you can relate to that?

But Gabriel doesn't stay there.  As so often happens we are one day brought face to face with our past and a choice must be made, live there or learn from it and move on.  Gabriel struggles with this but does learn to embrace his past once he begins to really understand what happened and uses it to improve himself.

This is a well written book, although it is predictable and you can almost see the ending at the beginning of the story.  The characters are well thought out and most have some depth to them,.  I have to say my favorite character isn't Gabriel, but Ezra, an old man who seems full of wisdom and patience. 

A great, relaxing pleasure read that can have depth to it if you look for it.  Reminds me of some of Andy Andews fiction titles.

You can purchase the River on Amazon here
You can also purchase a CD with music inspired by The River here

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Unglued review

Book Description:

In her bestseller Made to Crave, Bible-teacher Lysa TerKeurst shared her struggles with what went into her mouth and how her food choices were based on her emotions. Now in Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions, she focuses on what comes out in her speech. Sharing from her own experience, Lysa observes how many women hold their feelings inside, until circumstances reach a crisis and we explode, speaking in anger and saying words we'll regret later. In a very real way, we can come unglued and lose control of our emotions.

But there is hope for women who desire healing for their emotions. Without offering pat answers or simple solutions, Lysa brings insight to help women resolve conflict in healthy ways and improve communication with those whom you're in close relationship. Discover what it means to "renew your mind" in Biblical and practical ways.

My Review:

Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl was my introduction to Lysa Terkeurst, and that book really impacted my relationship with God. Then there was Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food which helped me to see how my relationship with food was a symptom of problems I had with my relationship with God. In this book, Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions , Lysa  addresses our emotions, or rather our desire to not let them control us.  And again this book has helped me to draw closer to God.

I love Lysa's honesty throughout all of her writings.  She doesn't preach at you, but rather shares real stories about having been there.  She comes unglued on her daughter not realizing that she has pocket dialed her pastor and he can hear it all, she cleans her house for company only to have company arrive and aks, "Lysa, where's the toilet seat for the kids' bathroom?"  She is downright honest, which makes it so much easier to hear that we need to change, and opens us up to her suggestions.  After all, if this gal who has similar unglued experiences can progress towards wise choices, why can't we?

And that's what this book is about, progress not perfection.  Lysa keeps it real here too.  Rather than tell us we will have a new us by Friday she tells us that we aren't going to get it right quickly, not if we want it to stick.  We are aiming for imperfect progress, where our steps forward are greater than our steps back, because we will have steps backwards.  No shortcut to happily ever after in this book, but I don't want the sugary sweet your life is going to be complete in 5 easy steps version.  I want truth, I want to know that when I mess up it doesn't mean the game is over.

So if you have ever felt like sometimes your emotions control you rather than the other way around, grab this book and start reading.  At best you will start on your own path to imperfect progress, at worst you spent $10 on a book that you can turn around and sell on ebay!

If you are interested in reading Unglued as part of an online Bible study, stop over at and sign up!  Study begins September 23, 2012

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bad Girls of the Bible review

Bad Girls of the Bible and What We Can Learn from Them:

 Women everywhere marvel at those “good girls” in Scripture–Sarah, Mary, Esther–but on most days, that’s not who they see when they look in the mirror. Most women (if they’re honest) see the selfishness of Sapphira or the deception of Delilah. They catch of glimpse of Jezebel’s take-charge pride or Eve’s disastrous disobedience. Like Bathsheba, Herodias, and the rest, today’s modern woman is surrounded by temptations, exhausted by the demands of daily living, and burdened by her own desires.

So what’s a good girl to do? Learn from their lives, says beloved humor writer Liz Curtis Higgs, and by God’s grace, choose a better path. In Bad Girls of the Bible, Higgs offers a unique and clear-sighted approach to understanding those “other women” in Scripture, combining a contemporary retelling of their stories with a solid, verse-by-verse study of their mistakes and what lessons women today can learn from them.

Whether they were “Bad to the Bone,” “Bad for a Season, but Not Forever” or only “Bad for a Moment,” these infamous sisters show women how not to handle the challenges of life. With her trademark humor and encouragement, Liz Curtis Higgs teaches us how to avoid their tragic mistakes and joyfully embrace grace.

My Review:

 Higgs story telling ability really shines in this study book.  I really enjoyed the "contemporary retelling" of each girls story and I liked the way Higgs walks us through the actual Bible verses as well.    Her diligence in research doesn't shine quite as much in this book as it does in The Girl's Still Got It, but it is obvious that she has done it.

What I enjoyed most about this book is the "what lesson can we learn" section at the end of each chapter and of course the "Good Girl Thoughts worth Considering" which is the reflection section (just say that, reflection section.  Fun to say isn't it?).  Higgs manages to show us how we can learn from these "bad girls" and use their mistakes as a way to evaluate ourselves and turn from a path that may lead us to appearing in a future bad girls book.

Higgs personality really shines throughout the book and you feel like you are sitting with a group of your girlfriends having a chat session.  With lines such as "Grab your daisies, sister, and let's pull of the petals, one by one. 'She loved him.  She loved him not.  She loved him.  She loved him not...' Not, it seems," (Did Delilah love Samson?) we see Higgs humor.  With her admission of leaving a store with a book in which she was undercharged without correcting it (she did later, but not at the time!) we see her getting tripped up just like we do sometimes.  (This was in the Sapphira chapter.)  You really feel like you are just hanging out with the gals while reading this, which is a good thing considering what the subject is.

You almost feel like you are gossiping.  "Did you hear what Eve did?"  "Eve, the one that is sooooo perfect?  No, tell me!"  or "Oh my gosh!  You remember Rahab?  You know.... (whisper) the harlot?  Guess what I saw her do!"  Only this gossip has a purpose.  These gal's stories were included in the Bible for a reason.  "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right." (2 Timothy 3:16 NLT)  Higgs really helps us to examine these particular scriptures and to examine our own lives to see if we have these same wrongs in our own lives.  I bet that you will identify in some small way with at least one of these bad girls!

Learn more about Liz Curtis Higgs on her website
Read chapter 1 of Bad Girls of the Bible here
order your own copy from Amazon here

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Cruel Harvest review

Book Description:

"Get out here, now, or I'm gonna kill you!" he hollered.

Little girls are hardwired to hold their daddies in high esteem, so it comes as a shock the first time a daughter feels the back of her daddy's hand across her face . . . or watches him punch and kick her mother to within an inch of her life.

How could this be? Her older sisters teach her how to survive, even when he comes for her in the night.
A girl learns to become invisible, to look the other way, to say nothing when a curious stranger asks if she's okay. To lie. To expect nothing, not even from relatives.

To cry without tears.

To pray silently.

When she is fourteen, and weary, a girl begins to wish she were dead. Cruel Harvest is the compelling story of how she lived instead.

My Review:
This is a difficult subject to write about, especially when you are so close to it as Fran Grubb obviously is since it is a memoir.  Physical, mental and sexual abuse are horrible things to undergo.  Grubb and Reardon do an amazing job of conveying the abuse without being crass.  As a reader you understand the fear, the terrible situations and the acts of evil that occur without the four letter words that must have been used or the minute detail that would have pushed this into something that a Christian publisher would have turned down.

This story, while horrible, demonstrates the power of faith.  How Fran was able to hang on to God when she had no church she attended regularly, no Bible to read and few examples of what it is to be a Christian is a testament to God himself. 

I can't label this as a "good" read.  The subject prevents that.  What I can say is that you will find yourself with tears in your eyes as you watch Fran's family run away from her father, eventually leaving her alone with him.  You will cringe when you read how easy it was for him to walk back into his children's lives and again subject them to his torture.  You will be stunned at the logic that some use to justify committing one evil in an attempt to rescue Fran from another.  If you have never suffered abuse and do not understand how easy it is to be charmed by an abuser or how you begin to believe what the abuser tells you about yourself, you will wonder why the women in Fran's father's life chose to stay.

Fran makes no excuses for the actions of those around her.  It was a different time.  One in which fathers ruled their families however they saw fit.  Spousal abuse, while maybe not common it was often overlooked.  Child abuse as well.  It was a different lifestyle.  As a migrant worker you were never really anywhere long enough to form bonds with others.  As a result few on the outside took notice of what was going on.  For Fran, it was what it was.

This is a story of triumph however.  By God's grace she makes her way out from under her father.  She overcomes, she reconnects with siblings, and she learns to forgive.  Truly a testament to the Spirit that lives in her.

You can purchase Cruel Harvest:  A memoir on Amazon by clicking here