Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Happily Ever After" by Gary Chapman

Let me start by saying this book is a whopper. There are sooo many parts and chapters. Sure, a studious person can get through the entire thing. However, for couples, I think this book is best used as a reference. That being said, the book covers several topics. It is published from a predominantly Christian publishing house, but, in all honesty, this book is more of a well-written self help book on counseling with some Bible verses and God words thrown in every so often. The conflict resolution and five love language explanation parts are excellent. The in-law advice is also astute. The financial advice is useful but vague. For couples looking for solid financial advice, I suggest they get a book that is more in-depth and focused on just that with more economics words and bank terms. I'm not going to lie. The part of the book that talked about--um, er--intimacies did make me uncomfortable. However, overall, it seems that Chapman wants couples to sincerely love and respect each other.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

"Fierce Beauty" by Kim Meder

You really should not judge a book by its cover, but I immediately thought this cover was beautiful. Reading the book, the message is nice. We need to throw aside our pride and become the fierce yet beautiful warriors that Christ intended us to be as His Bride, the Church. The author incorporates Scripture, personal stories, and even dreams. Now, for me, I found some parts of the book boring. This may just be my personality. Lots of the stories were about outdoorsy stuff like hiking, climbing, and such. Some readers will find this exciting. I did not. Judge for yourself. If all else fails, the cover is pretty.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Names of GOD Bible

I was so excited when I got this Bible in the mail. Now, I've read NLT's "In His Image" Bible where the names of God are off to the side in fancy font every now and then for readers to learn from and in the back for quick reference. I've even used Young's Literal Translation as a reference where I found the occasional Jehovah and Jah in the Word. However, this is the first Bible I've acquired so far that actually inserts the names of God in the actual text itself. They are in the verses in bold brown font to make them really stick out. Also, to my delight, there are inserts with what the names mean WITH the actual Hebrew or Greek scripts. The names of God are original. What do I mean by this? One example is that the Hebrew name of God is Yahweh. Many English translations made it Jehovah (claiming that is easier for English speakers to pronounce). Now, I know God goes by many names, but to have the original is a bit exciting. GOD's Word translation is very easy to understand. I'm not going to lie and say it's the MOST accurate. Modern translations do lose some stuff (like Zech 2:5 using "it" instead of "she" as to not confuse those who know Zion is portrayed as a female). For the most accuracy on any verse, one ought to look up the Hebrew and Greek. But to learn the names of God with a very easy to understand translation like this is great. Also, this Bible is not as expensive as other Names of God Bibles I've seen so far. Get this and read it!

Friday, November 25, 2011

"Praying for your Future Husband" by Robin Jones Gunn and Tricia Goyer

When I first got this book, I sighed, rolled my eyes, and thought, "Oh, no, not another self-help book for how women can find Christian men. I'm sick and tired if these books." However, when I started to get into the book, I was pleasantly surprised. The pages flew by, and I grew in the process. The book focuses on praying for your future husband and yourself. There are many Scriptural verses that fit perfectly in the context of each chapter. The authors even give personal stories from their own lives with what they've learned. There are discussion questions and suggested prayers and other women's perspectives. Women who read this book will pray over their husband and be changed. Even if they never get married, they will grow immensely in this process. To keep yourself pure and pray for others while sprinting after God is a beautiful thing.

Monday, November 14, 2011

"Get Married for Christ's Sake" by Kenny Jackson

I'm not going to lie. When I was asked to review this book, the title made me chuckle. I found it so amusing that I was unsure whether or not to take the book seriously. However, after received the book in the mail, I was pleasantly surprised. Kenny Jackson is not a literature major or theologian, but he conveys his thoughts very eloquently with current / up-to-date analogies that the average person will relate to. This isn't a handbook for "finding" your potential mate or some self-help type of book. Rather, it is sincere and practical advice for single Christian people. Interesting points that I have not found in other Christian relationship books on marriage are the notions of: making sure you get along with the person's family / culture, being on the same financial page, sharing secrets with accountability partners, and views on child rearing. A unique and helpful part in the back of the book is a survey for people to take to see how they and their potential mate view various aspects of marriage and living together. Also unique is Jackson's perspective of being in a cross-cultural relationship since he is black and his wife is Asian. While this book is a thin one, it'll keep you thinking about the points being brought up.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"A Woman's Guide to Fasting: by Lisa E. Nelson

When I first got this book, I was suspicious. I was afraid the book would be terribly boring and methodical, or worst--religiously strict. However, just the opposite occurred. The language and style with which Nelson writes flows very well and connects excellently. I do have to say that some of what she writes may resonate better with women, but I do think men will get some great information out of this book. Besides emphasizing that obedience is better than sacrifice and that fasting is not just a way to be "holy," Nelson writes about her own faith experiences. She seems like a real friend that one looks up to. The advice for fasting goes not only into the spiritual but also into the physical for how to prepare and what to eat before starting a fast. This thin book is great for women looking into fasting.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"His Princess" by Sheri Rose Shepherd

This tiny book can fit into your purse or backpack. It has that hardcover that is soft, if you know what I am talking about. The pages are glossy with nice colors, imagery, and flowers. Some visuals are repeated, though. What is best about this though, is the content. Each page last a paragraph that is supposed to be God's love letter to you and a Scripture verse. The way in which these are written really touches the heart. The Bible verses are written in contemporary translations, so they are very easy to understand. The book is great for those who want quick devotionals, as each left and right page can be for a day. Or, if one prefers, they can read the whole book in one sitting, as I did. A complaint I have, though, is that when Psalm 27:4 was quoted, the part about being in the House of the LORD was there, but the part about staring on the pleasantness of Jehovah was plain left out.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"Deadly Pursuit" by Irene Hannon

In terms of writing style and suspense, I have to say this book is pretty well-done and constructed. Long story short, the protagonist is a gorgeous female social worker who meets a dashing Navy SEAL. Sparks fly, but tension heats up as the woman is being stalked by a mystery man. Don't worry about spoilers. These facts are learned very early in the book. As common sense dictates in any romance / mystery novel, the woman is kidnapped, and her hero saves the day. This book is affiliated with religious publishing companies. There is some talk of God, but it is slim and inserted here and there. Nothing overwhelming, which may be good or bad, depending on how you feel about so-called "Christian" fiction. What did irk me a bit was how the woman was often portrayed as weak and in need of protection. Sure, her personality was strong, but something about vulnerable women just ticks me off. The women who always need a man to save them. But, hey, to each his own.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

"Heaven is for Real" by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent

There are many near-death-experience books out there about people who have gone to heaven. I've read some of them. What I tended to notice was that most wrote a lot of backstory. You know, their life story and what happened prior to their experience, leaving just a few snidbits of detail about heaven. This book also starts out with a lot of detail leading up to the little boy's illness that almost took his life away permanently from Earth. However, there is a lot of detail about heaven here. Written by the boy's father (with help from a literary co-author), this book is great. There is even a color section with photographs in the middle. What was fascinating was that the boy spoke of what stuff looked like in heaven, the throne of God, and the battle of Armageddon. I won't give away all the details, but I will say this is a quick read that will help solidify your faith about whether or not heaven is "for real."

Monday, October 17, 2011

"Why Men Hate Going to Church" by David Murrow

I am not going to lie. This book is highly academic and best read as a reference book. However, what few key points it makes really stick. This put a new set of ideas into my head. Murrow talks about how churches nowadays are feminine in their demeanor and style. They attract bookish, musical men who do not fit the persona of an overly "manly man." The guys that like sports more than pianos are slightly repulsed by all this "relationship with Jesus" talk and ooey-gooey theology. What really hit me is the comment where Murrow said too many preachers preach the Lamb and not the Lion.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Love, Sex, and Happily Ever After" by Craig Groeschel

If you've been checking out my book reviewing blog, you'll see I recently reviewed a great memoir about a possessed man who became a Christian ("Ascent from Darkness"). Anyway, as I began to read this book, I thought to myself--man, this guy's name and church sound really familiar. I later remembered that this author was the same pastor that the possessed man was sent to kill. Talk about coincidences. Wowza. Anyway, I was a bit skeptical about this book as many relationship books written by Christians tend to be great or terrible. This one falls in the great category. What I love is that the author emphasizes building your relationship with Jesus (the One) before you can even be ready for a mate (the Two). Bible is quoted from various parts of the Bible. I'm not just talking about some NT stuff that every seasoned Christian can quote. I mean meaningful verses that the average person would not know and even OT verses; I liked this. Also, the writing style is informative and straightforward while still being culturally relevant--which I found very funny at certain parts with quips. There is even a little discussion guide at the end. I did not go through all of it, but I can say that I think it would be great for couples reading this book together or even Christian book clubs, friends, or groups studying this book together. This book made me rethink the male and female roles that society has screwed up so much. I am an athletic "against-the-grain" gal who used to hate the word submission. Now, I don't think it is so bad. You may not know me personally, but let me tell you that--coming from me--that means a lot. Craig...kudos.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Ascent from Darkness: How Satan's Soldier Became God's Warrior" by Michael Leehan

Everyone needs to read this book. This is the story of a satanic worshipper who became a child of God. Readers realize that no human is too far gone, and that the love of God knows no bounds and turns no one away--regardless of how bad they've been. However, what I daresay is of more importance is understanding real spiritual warfare.

I am glad Leehan is now a slave of Yeshua Messiah, but some of what he did in his possession is worth noting for us to learn from. He would purposely go to churches to start conflict; he would memorize Bible verses and try to mess people up with them; he would go to singles groups and look for venerable women to satisfy his lust; he would purposely try to break up marriages; he would burn pages of the Bible; he would go after those who seemed young both in age and in the faith; he would see spirits; he would hear demons; he communicated with the spiritual realm; he saw / felt hedges of protection around certain people; he could tell in Bible studies who was really seeking God and who was immature in faith; and the list goes on.

What is most striking is that the forces of darkness can indeed enter "Christian circles" and pretend to be Christian to manipulate others. I'm not saying one has to be calling every single sinful person possessed, but I do think us as Christians need to be more on our toes (Matt 10:16). Things like blood sacrifice, spiritual influence, voices, and so much more are told with horrifying clarity. The book even includes eye-witness accounts from people who back up Leehan's story.

Both before and after his conversion, Leehan comments about how little Christians know about the God they profess. Christians, please read your Bible and get to know your God. Church and devotionals are great, but God is bigger than the beatitudes and self-help lessons. Read a translation you understand and get to know what you are dealing with. Reading this book was hard, and when Leehan wrote of what God told Him, I started to cry. Some words on pg 211 include: "I created you. I chose you first. I will never leave you. You will never leave Me. You are in My hands; you are in My arms."

While I have not been as in deep or intensely lost as Leehan, I can identify with a lot of what he went through in terms of possession, the dark side, spirits, blood rituals, and more. Like Leehan, the love of Christ grabbed me by the collar and did not let go (look at Job 30:18 and verses around it). The forces of darkness are real, and don't you dare think for one moment that you don't have to understand them. I'm not saying to go read every occult book or obsess with all that research; the Bible has enough in it (2 Tim 2:15).

I personally feel a hedge of protection around me as I claim Zech 2:5 for the fire of glory around me. I heard God whisper He loves me (Rom 5:5) as I am flooded with God (Eph 3:19). Every day is a battle (Eph 6:12) but I stare at God (Heb 12:2). God protects His own, yes, but from the Book of Job, we see that God allows even the upright to be tested. It is my sincere hope that you will never have to see, hear, or come into contact with the dark forces of this world. However, I assure you they are real.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

"Night of the Living Dead Christian" by Matt Mikalatos

Now, I know we are not to judge a book by its cover, but, when I saw this, I just knew I had to know more. Upon hearing the premise of the book, I was intrigued--compare monsters to Christians in our various levels of hypocrisy. What I did not expect was such a vivid tale that captured my attention like it did. There is a real story where Christians encounter monsters and real transformation happens. Little problems in marriages and churches and theology pop up, but they are subtle. The real issue in the book is that it will cause readers to really look at themselves and see what monster they have become. I do not want to give away major plot events--if you read my blog, you see I rarely do. All I can say is that I took my sweet time with this book to savor it. As a book reviewer, I often skim books or put them down once there is something boring or wrong with it. That never happened with this book. At the end, I was even wishing for more. Luckily, there was some bonus material for readers. Read this book and realize the truth that being undead is harder than being dead and that only Christ can make you truly alive. Marvelous!

"What is he Thinking?" by Rebecca St. James

When I heard about this book, I really wanted to review it. After all, with all the plethora of relationship books out there, women still have questions in their minds. They biggest one is stamped on the cover of this one. What I love about this book is that James did not just put in a bunch of her advice or what she thinks guys think. No. She straight up asked guys from different ages and relationships statuses what they really thought. The questions had to do with girls, relationships, turnoffs, reactions, marriage, modesty, and so much more. From time to time, James quoted other relationship experts and some Bible verses. For the most part, a lot of this book makes sense. What girls will get out of this book more than the answer to the question on the cover is that there really are godly men out there looking to respect and honor women as the delicate flowers that they are.

God Girl Bible

While every possible "type" of Bible is geared towards a different audience, I love how the cover of this Bible is mostly plain yet girly with the only words being "God Girl Bible" on the bottom. There is no other nonsense written on the cover to distract, which is nice. This Bible comes in a nice box when you get it in the mail, and the hardcover binding seems pretty durable thus far. The Bible is not pocket-sized, but it is small enough to be read comfortably in bed. For those familiar with other "God Girl" books, they will know how pretty the pages are. From flowers to designs and prints, these pages are anything but plain white. There are little devotionals, explanations, definitions, and more in this book. GOD's Word Translation, which is implemented here, is pretty accurate while still being understandable. The concordance is wonderful. It lists emotions, topics, and so much more. This is an excellent Bible study tool for women of all ages.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

"A Confident Heart" by Renee Swope

Written by a worker for Proverbs 31 Ministries, you'd be right if you thought this book was geared towards women. However, aside from the fact that most stories are about women, this book could appeal to men, too, and people of all ages--not just middle-aged mothers. Why do I say that? Well, going through the book, Swope tackles tough issues like doubt, insecurities, loneliness, inadequacy, guilt, shame, and more. Now, I'm no therapist, but I am pretty sure that most people of all walks of life experience these once in a while. What Swope does, though, is incorporate Scripture into each page to infuse the book with hope. No matter what you are going through, this book will remind you that you are loved (Isaiah 43:4). The Scripture list at the back is particularly helpful, in addition to the various discussion questions.

Available August 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Lion of Babylon" by Davis Bunn

This is a fast-paced action / adventure novel. It is so speedy, in fact, that sometimes the reader will be confused as to what is going on and who all the characters are. This propels the pages as readers piece together the puzzles of the plot, which I won't entirely ruin. The protagonist is--surprise, surprise--a secret agent of sorts. He is in the Middle East and discovers that many Christian Iraqis have gone missing. With violence, mystery, and everything in between, readers and characters alike have to put solve the puzzle of this religious / cultural / controversial who-done-it. Adding to the anxiety is the fact that the protagonist is a widower with possible women he could start his life over with. There are some mentions of church and prayer, but that is about as far as it goes in some respects. While this was very well written, it wasn't my cup of tea since I usually do not read this genre. However, those into this type of story will probably relish the read.

"Muscular Faith" by Ben Patterson

There is a plethora of advice for readers in this slim book. From trusting God to praying to reading Scripture to generally drawing close to God, this book has it all. Bible verses are quoted, and the commentary given by the author is indeed insightful. Personal stories are not the highlight of the book, but some ones are included for your leisure. While one could argue the point that faith is a spiritual gift and thus can't be "worked on," I'm sure everyone can agree that we must acknowledge God and that it is our job to love Him, which goes back to Him anyway with 1 john 4:19. Either way, this book is a great resource for those that want "faith" verses and examples from the Bible. It would also make a nice gift. For those that want a more muscular faith, maybe some benchpressing is in order. After all, some hardcover Bibles are quite hefty. God bless!

"A Faith of Leap" by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch

This book can be summed up in Hebrews 10:35. Essentially, the authors are trying to motivate readers to be more "on fire," so to speak, for the Lord. There is the sophistication and methodology for preachers to follow with big theological words and charts fully equip with arrows...juxtaposed with the clever nomenclature and spitfire of contemporary colloquialism. Did I mention that there are many Bible quotations in addition to those from Bible commentators? Sometimes the book reads very casually, and other times the authors whip out their numbers and bullet points to direct readers in how to act. This piece of literature is very well written and I did not find any parts that were overly blasphemous and I sometimes do with other books. It seems to me like the authors simply want readers to man up like in 1 Cor 2:2 and really live.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"Amish Values for Your Family" by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Let's face it. There's just something about the way of the Amish that captivates us. Maybe it's their radically simple lifestyle, or maybe it's their bonnets. Either way, something draws us in. In Fisher's book, she dives deep into how Amish families operate and how you can emulate them. Fisher has written other books on the Amish, and she knows her stuff. While this book is aimed at family life, the tips given can assist relationships of all kinds. With each chapter being just a few pages, this makes for a quick read or easy reference book. While intriguing, one has to admit that the "lessons" learned are nothing new under the sun (Ecc 1:9). Still, there's just something about how the book is written that makes it a staple to the bookshelf, if you will. What is different is the fact that Fisher doesn't just keep on yakking about what we should be doing to cultivate the ways of the Amish. Instead, she inserts real stories from Amish, real quotes, and real proverbs that make the book come alive.

Available August 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Friday, August 12, 2011

"Stumbling into Grace" by Lisa Harper

Truth be told, I wanted to review this book first because I thought the cover was cute. I'm in my early twenties, refuse to let go of my girly tendencies, and occasionally dress like the youngster on the cover...but I digress. You know you see a good movie when--before you know it--it is over. You realize it held your attention to the end. The same is true with this book. As a women's speaker, it is no surprise that Harper's prose comes off comical and gregarious. There are even some facetious anecdotes included in the book. Readers will laugh at them guilt free because they will feel entitled to. Why? Because they'll feel like Harper's friend. What I like about this book is that it isn't a theological treatise on grace. That would most likely intimidate too many people. It's a simple book about Harper's life with grace wound in. Also great is the fact that Harper incorporates relevant (I know the whole Book is relevant, but you know what I mean) Scripture. At the end of each chapter, there is a small section with questions for the reader, prayers / short letters, journal prompts, and Bible verses to look up. Cute book.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Kissing Fish" by Roger Wolsey

Advertised as a book on Christianity for those that do not like Christianity, my interest was piqued. The Jesus fish icon kissing the Darwin fish also made my eyebrows shoot up. Diving into the book, I read at the beginning that the book is for everybody but is more geared towards young adults. The way the book is laid out with the text going near to the edges of the pages, this colossal read may intimidate youngsters. Luckily, the beginning of the book tells readers that they may skim the chapters--something that permission need not be given for. Anyway, written by somewhat of a theologian, this book tackles plenty of huge topics from death, heaven, hell, communion, the Gospel, love, the Bible, and more. I'd be tempted to call this book a bit heretical if not for the fact that Wolsey presents different sides of each position. What do I mean by that? For topics, he gives progressive, fundamentalists, and everything in between in terms of standpoints / paradigms. I don't agree with everything in this book, but I think Wolsey's intentions were genuine in wanting people to come to the Faith. However, the way I see it, if people don't want Jesus, no amount of progressive "hip" sugarcoating and complacent denials of essential dogma will make nonbelievers truly love Jesus. Philemon 1:14.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

"I Kissed Dating Goodbye" by Joshua Harris

With a title as controversial as this, I knew I was in for a doozy of a read. Jumping into the book, I soon realized that Harris' focus wasn't on never getting into relationships. Rather, he was trying to tell readers not to date for the sake of dating. To him, relationships must be pure and done out of love and service to the other person. To have no interest in marriage or commitment is just wasting the other person's time and emotions. Fascinatingly, at the end of the book, he alluded to his sequel where he accounts for how he met and courted--yes, I just used that word--his wife. Bible is quoted, and the pages fly by in this captivating book. What striked me the most was how Harris said we can grow in God's love in our singleness (something I've even seen in other relationships people have). The point of being selfless and not selfish will really hit home with readers. To truly stare at Christ is not to be worked up over members of the opposite sex, sizing them up and fantasizing about potential mates. No. Harris tells us to love our neighbors, pursue holy righteousness, be selfless, and trust God to work out his plan. Splendid.

Friday, August 5, 2011

"A Sea in Flames" by Carl Safina

Before I even dived into this book, the words that stood out to me were that Safina was a great conversationalist. Now, as a book reviewer, when I read this, I figured this author is either incredibly talented or just full of himself. On his writing style, I must say he delivered. Sentences flowed quite well, and the book progressed in an orderly fashion. There are a few "bad words" in the book, so I wouldn't recommend this to young readers. For the BP oil spill itself, Safina provides scientific facts in a language that most people can understand. Sure, you may have to look up some words now and then, but, for the most part, this is a book that doesn't just have to be read by academics. What I liked was a part in the book that paralleled similar oil spills in the past. There is even a small section with full color photos in the middle of the book. While most of the books I review tend to be faith-based, this one most certainly is not. God is mentioned a couple of times. However, on these few instances, the attitude towards Him is perplexing. It's part complaining, part anger, part mesmerising. I can't speak for everyone, but I will say this is not a faith-based book as a whole. It is more of a research-based book. Interviews with various experts and eye-witnesses are given, which provide facetiously frank perspectives. The tone jumps around from scholarly to sarcastic to just plain adamant. Many facts are given in this book. It's a thick read but does include an index for those that just want to use this book as a reference tool.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"King's Cross" by Timothy Keller

This shall be a unique review because this book was not from a publicist or author seeking a review. It was merely a gift from a nice Christian friend who wanted my opinion on a book that he happened to have an extra copy of.

With a cover white enough to blind yet not bright enough to merit Isaiah 62:2, the title's 3D etching leaps off the front and onto one's psyche. The fantastic notion that a king--no, THE King--would take on the humility and pain of a Cross is the fundamental piece of Christianity that tends to drift into believers' subconsciousness. Sure, everyone likes a good Christian self-help book or pretty devotional with room for journaling on delicate pages, but few pick up good theology books that are too intense for meager Bible studies and too humble to be called dogma.

So, what do we have? We have a look at what grace really is without saying it out loud. Almost like supernovae that announce light without ever uttering a word. The book of Mark is gone through in this book. The entire Gospel is not quoted, and other parts of Scripture wade in. However, the focus is on Peter's documenter who wrote the "concise" history of Jesus. The book is divided into two sections. The first details Jesus' Kingship, and the second highlights Calvalry. Some chapters read like sermons and are not exactly page-turners, but the insights that Keller throws in are marvelous.

I can not do the lessons in this book justice. Sure, I could go on about how Keller emphasizes dependence on Christ, death to a works mentality, embracing weaknesses, awaiting the New Creation, delighting in Christ's glory, and so much more. However, those seem like staples to regular Christian diets that believers ought to already know. The way they are presented is beautiful, though. Imagine a hamburger. That is ordinary in America; but picture it presented on polished China and expensive cutlery. The burger is still a burger, but something catches our attention and makes us appreciate our meal again.

All I can hope is that readers of "King's Cross" smile every time Jesus' name appears with pride similar to a parent at a ballgame who points to the field and says, "That One's mine."

Monday, August 1, 2011

"Money Secrets of the Amish" by Lorilee Craker

While the stories and characters mentioned in this book are unique, the tips most certainly are not. Frugal advice such as recycling, saving, avoiding debt, and thrifting are not new concepts. Still, Craker writes with a unmistakable voice. Her work as an editor makes the words flow across the pages; and her work as a journalist makes you feel as if you are getting some sort of inside scoop. All that being said, this book is best as a reference book but reads lightning fast as if it were a letter from a parsimonious friend. The Amish values are told with much respect, and readers get a taste of the culture.

"Set Free to Live Free" by Saundra Dalton-Smith MD

With a cover like this, I strapped myself in for what I knew to be another Christian self-help book. Granted, I was a bit taken aback by the talk of "energies," as I thought the author was going all new-age on me. However, as the book progressed, I saw Biblical attitudes and perspectives with quotations and saw that the author truly did have good intentions and kept the stress / focus on God's way. While I can get addled by books that promise blessings and happiness from God, I remember that God promises us life everlasting for free. Each "lie" has a story from women, followed by Bible verses and the author's advice. The topics are typical and discuss perfection, envy, limitations, emotions, and the like. While step-by-step instructions on how to be a happy woman of God are good for the spiritually young, I think women and men alike need to just stare at the Savior until all problems fade into the background. Read Psalm 63. :)

"The Upside" by Bradley Wright

Wright is known for his surveys and analytical statistics. His last book on Christians and their--get this--altruistic tendencies was a big hit (I also reviewed his "Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites and Other Lies You've Been Told"). Anyway, like his other book, this is more of a helpful reference for when you want to look something up. Relationships, the environment, finances, you name it. While the writing is well, and the comments are fun (there is a section in each chapter where Wright documents good things that Christians are doing to make the world a better place), this does not read like a novel unless you are a history buff that is infatuated with numbers and charts.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

"Surprised by Oxford" by Carolyn Weber

As anyone can find from a simple Google search, this book is about a woman's journey of finding God at Oxford. Now, as a young person in a collegiate setting, this got my attention, and I eagerly suggested the book. The book came in the male like a brick. Don't let the paperback cover fool you. This 400+ book packs a whollop. When I read the "author info" printed, I saw Weber was a student of literature. After getting through the first chapter, I was not blown away. Thus, I thought this was the work of a well-meaning woman who was simply trying too hard to be brilliant. So, I confess, I skimmed the second chapter. However, after skimming it, key words and phrases popped out at me and made me re-read the second chapter. I was hooked and actually began to like her style of writing. The rest of the book flew by. As a professional book reviewer, I must say I do speed read when time gets the best of me, but rarely am I compelled to re-read what I thought was skimmable. This is saying something. Anyway, for the plot, it is real. After all, this is a memoir of sorts. What I enjoyed was Weber's candid honesty--even if she confessed to changing some characters' names for privacy issues. What was also interesting was how she viewed men both before and after her conversion. This book is a splendid tale of love that knows no bounds. Read it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Connecting in Communities" by Eddie Mosley

From the snazzy cover to the concise title, you guess it--this is a book on small groups...or so it would seem. The foreword got my attention as I was promised great insights with impeccable writing. Now, don't get me wrong, Mosley is a great author who both writes well and knows what he's talking about. However, the more I looked at this book, the more I felt it relating less and less to me. Granted, there are tips for small group leaders and helpers, as well as advice any Christian could use for discipling others. Still, the book felt like it was geared towards pastors who are training other leaders and how to effectively grow a church (the author's church was mentioned several times as if parts of the book were from some sort of church leadership manual). All in all, this book is real insightful and flows well, but it is more of a reference book than a concrete book on how to lead small groups of all ages (this one focuses primarily on working adults).

"Perfectly Invisible" by Kristin Billerbeck

When I realized this book is a sequel to "Perfectly Dateless"--which I also reviewed--I was pleasantly surprised. I greatly enjoyed Billerbeck's previous book, and this one did not let me down. The details from the first book are interspersed throughout this book so that the reader does not feel out of the loop (so to speak) if they didn't read the first book or simply forget details [as in my case]. In this book, the protagonist Daisy feels underappreciated and--you guessed it--invisible. Her boyfriend ignores her, and there is trouble with her so-called best friend. I know that this review makes the book sound like some teeny drama, but that's exactly what it is. However, the author manages to keep the flow so the pages keep turning. The plot is very modern, and with the exception of certain phrases that the average teen would not consider cool, Billerbeck does a good job of infiltrating teen culture to get them to listen to her story. Many important lessons are meshed into this book, like humility, gratitude, trust, and what to do in dangerous situations. While there is some romance, none of it is graphic, and I'd go as far to say that pre-teens could read this book. The ending is a bit out of the ordinary, but the book is anything but predictable and will leave readers smiling.

Available July 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"An Expose on Teen Sex and Dating" by Andy Braner

With a headline as shocking as this one, readers are expecting a tongue-in-cheek read. However, Braner provides a sound set of arguments and observations on teenage relationships without too much information. While he is brutally honest about what is doing on, he does not provide explicit diagrams of explanations. The emphasis in this book is that, while purity rallies are well intentioned, they do not work. Braner suggests talking to kids about sex and explaining how God made it to be in marriage for joy and how relationships relate to Jesus and the Church (comparing physical wholeness to spiritual wholeness). Much advice is written as if for a parental audience, but any reader can learn from this book. Adults will learn how to navigate the wishy-washy psyches of adolescents, and teens will learn that pre-marital sex is more than just whoredom. While educational and rooted in Biblical principles, I'd suggest very young readers only go through this book with adult supervision.

"Seeing the Unseen" by TW Hunt

The captivating water scene captured my attention (I confess to being a fluid dynamicist at times) as did the simple yet captivating title. Who doesn't want to know more about seeing God? Anyway, I read and picked up on Hunt's theological arguments, which were both sound and not very controversial. I looked up Scripture he quoted from time to time, which was unique. Clever Christian authors will paraphrase Bible verses so that readers recall it or get the gist for some verses but be more vague for other verses to get readers to crack open their Bibles for themselves. Whether or not this was intention--well done. Also, by the time I was nearing the end of the book, I realized I had not learned anything new about seeing God in terms of steps to take or how to be more mystical / holy. Then, I realized that I instead came to learn how to draw closer to God and be more in tune with His Spirit. Seeing the unseen. This book is short and ingenious.

"Dressing with Dignity" by Colleen Hammond

When I picked this book up, I had high hopes and expectations. Modesty isn't always written about in Christian circles, and the back cover doted information about the author that listed her as an image consultant and beauty queen. I open the book and on the dedication page, guess who the book is dedicated to? Not Jesus but Mary--who she claims is born without sin even though this is nowhere in the Bible and directly contradicts Romans 3:23. Anyway, I kept on reading. Discussions about fashion were informative but no pictures were given. What was interesting was the results of psychology tests that showed that men's eyes went right to the crotch when women wore pants. Also fascinating was how the author quoted the Freemasonry occult in having a hand in the decline of women's modesty. I did not like the suggestions of praying with saints / angels (Bible says do not communicate with God and to pray only to Him). Also, the author referenced that appearances of the Virgin Mary were always modest. Need I quote 2 Cor 11:14-15? If the real Mary came for a visit, I highly doubt she would instill prayer beads (pagan origin) with repetitious prayer that the Lord does not prefer (Matthew 6:7). For readers that want a book on Christian modesty, I recommend "Fashioned by Faith" that I reviewed in the past.

"Earthen Vessels" by Matthew Lee Anderson

This book is very well written and highly intellectual. It dives deep into the theology of the body, quoting both from Scripture and theologians. It discusses the mortality of the body, why homosexuality is not meant to be, why caring for the body is important, and the importance of how Jesus came to earth in a body like ours. With all of this, my only criticism is that the book can read like a textbook at times with highly philosophical language that does not flow very easily to the modern reader. I have no doubt in my mind that the author is very smart (grammar is impeccable), but suffice to say, this book is not a page-turner.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Don't Check Your Brains at the Door" by Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler

Although this book is aimed at children, it seems like an excellent resource for all ages. It is essentially a simplified apologetics book that juxtaposes quick humor with deep insight. The chapters are tremendously short and to the point. This makes it easy for young readers to stay connected and for older readers for make time to read it. Various "myths" are dispelled about Jesus, the Bible, the resurrection, life, and more. Books written by two authors sometimes seem choppy, but this book flows very nicely with creative ideas. At the end of each chapter, there is an exercise section that involves questions, prompts, and puzzle-like activities that directly correlate to the Bible, oftentimes having the reader look up very specific verses. Bible verses are also quoted in the actual chapters, although those tend to be written out and not just cited. Overall, this book may not be a treatise on apologetics, but it will give Christians quick answers to those pesky questions both from the world and their doubting minds. The notes section includes great resources, including books on archaeology of the Bible that the authors cleverly yet succinctly summarize.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"It Couldn't JUST Happen" by Lawrence O. Richards

This spectacular book is a gem for children of all ages. It dives deep into science (earth science, physics, biology, chemistry, and more) to showcase to readers that there is indeed evidence for a Creator. The book starts off talking about galaxies and Earth, transitions into living creatures, highlights humans, and wraps up with how we know the Bible / Christianity is both true and historically accurate. At the end of each chapter are "just for fun" sections that both kids and adults will enjoy. They are not so much the fill-in-the-blank or journaling type but are more of just initiated prompts for the reader to learn more. Bible is quoted at times, which is nice. The pages are nice and glossy with excellent pictures. My only criticism is that I'd like for the book to be hardcover!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

"The Little Red Book of Wisdom" by Mark DeMoss

As the title implies, this is a small book of advice for readers. Divided into two categories, DeMoss tackles both professional and personal issues. While the early chapters of this book are not overtly religious, this book published by Thomas Nelson starts to introduce some spirituality towards the end. Not surprisingly, the book of Proverbs is often cited. Given his PR (public relations) success, DeMoss mentions his highs and lows without the expected air of arrogance. Even if one is not in the professional sector, they can use the professional tips in any aspect of leadership. Some tips given have to do with integrity, listening, relationships, alcohol, career paths, and more. I won't spoil all of the advice, but I will say this is a nice little book.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

John Crowder Review

Let's start with "Mystical Union." First off, I know one should not judge books by their covers, but a red flag came up for me when I saw a picture of "Jesus" on the cover. From Deuteronomy 4, I know God does not like us to make images of Him. Anyway, I started going through the book to see how it was. From the get-go, Crowder proclaims to the reader that their theology will be flipped upside-down with his revolutionary new teaching--who's never read that before from preachers? Anyway, Crowder promotes the notion that Christians are sinless and that they mystically died with Christ on the Cross. Several verses are quoted, I'll give Him that, but when he tries to address notions of Matt 26:41 or Romans 7:15, he says those arguments are demonic and heretical. What better way to get Christians to stop thinking for themselves than to say their arguments belong in hell? Also, something he did, which I personally can not stand, is that he said some verses are only in specific contexts and that they were written to specific Jews and not the reader. With this nonsensical logic, people could say they don't have to obey the Ten Commandments because they weren't there at Mt. Sinai being addressed by Moses. On page 183, he also says "you are not saved by your love for God. you are saved by His love for you." What about Matt 23:37 and connecting Matt 7:21-23 with 1 Cor 8:3? Also, at points, this book feels like it preaches the "health and wealth" gospel. At one point, Crowder says his wife encountered an angel called Sovereignty. Who is sovereign besides God?! My goodness!

Given all of this, when I picked up "Seven Spirits Burning," I was a bit skeptical. After all, if Crowder was off on some things in his first book, will he be off in the second one? I tread very carefully when I read this one. In general, this book was more Scripturally sound than the first one. There were some insights into how the seven Spirits of God can relate to the seven wicks on the menorah and how Yahweh has seven marks in the Hebrew way of writing it out. Those were interesting facts. However, considering deep prophesy and Revelation, I didn't take Crowder as seriously. He spoke of angels frequently and even mentioned some apocrypha. He tries to make various connections to churches and people as Temples, which aren't horrendously blasphemous at all. However, given his first book, I was careful not to take any of his "prophetic" knowledge and insight too seriously. At points in the book, he writes of miraculous healing and being called a prophet and being willing to suffer for Christ, which I suppose is good to some degree. Overall, from Crowder's writing, I gather the main message is that the work on the Cross was fantastic and that God has big plans for us. That's great, but I think a simpler lesson is that our God wants our love like in Phil 1:14. These two books are semi-thick, and, if one has time to read, they should pick up their Bible and think things through for themselves.

Monday, June 20, 2011

"Surviving Your Serengeti" by Stephan Swanepoel

A first glance at this book may make readers think they are holding a creative self-help book that uses animal comparisons. Well, that's true, but only up to a certain degree. While there are many life tips and business strategies implemented on the pages, this book does not read like a work of non-fiction. Rather, there is a story. At the end of certain chapters, there are short synopses of "tips" for the reader. However, besides those, the reader is immersed into the Serengeti as they follow travelers in Africa being led by a charismatic and sagacious leader who not only shows them exotic animals but what traits the animals possess that help make them successful. While the setting is in Africa, Swanepoel is careful not to point out any races, which is nice. The animal descriptions are not incredibly detailed, but they do the job. As for the literary style, the writing flows very well and is suitable for its genre; if the "tips" were omitted and the spacing were worked out, this could be more of a novella or longer short story. Even though this is published by Thomas Nelson, it is not overtly religious at all, which is a bit sad. Anyway, at the end of the book, Swanepoel provides a link to his website where one can take a quiz to see which animal they are most like. I am apparently a graceful giraffe.

"Double Take" by Melody Carlson

Just when I thought Carlson couldn't think of any more original book ideas, out comes this book. It's about a high school senior girl--no surprises there--that has an out of the ordinary situation. She is stressed out--again, not too unlikely--and meets a girl that looks almost exactly like her. Same hair color, same height, same complexion...different life. The city girl has worries about college, family life, boys, and other it-girl troubles. The Amish girl is bored to tears from her domestic life of homemaking. This double-take book will really hold young readers' attention as most do not know the in's and out's of Amish life. The grammar is excellent and graceful while not being too hard to understand. There are funny moments and serious ones. The actions are facetious without being too cliched. I won't spoil the ending, but I will say it is well worth the read. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

iShine NLT Bible

While these Bibles are marketed towards tweens (that is, pre-teenage youngsters), I daresay anyone will enjoy them, regardless of age. Having read the New Living Translation of the Bible earlier this year, I know how well the thoughts of God are conveyed to the reader. Meaning is not lost, but there are none of the complexities of old English to mess people up. These soft leather-bound Bibles have excellent detail on the cover. The front in the picture is actually just a paper case. The left one has a mark of a boy rocking out to guitar with sparks flying. The right one has stars and flowers with three girls holding hands. Even though these Bibles are small (about 6in x 4in x 1in), they still include all the books of the Bible with footnotes, inserts, and fun concordances in the back. I'm really excited that I got these to review. Usually, I underline my Bible and read it from start to finish. Once I'm done, I just peruse whatever I feel like. With two new and unmarked Bibles, I'll have incentive to read my Bible start to finish in order two more times. Bravo. God is great (Rev 19:13).

Sunday, May 1, 2011

"Revise Us Again" by Frank Viola

In this Biblically sound short book, Viola puts his foot down on many Christian practices. He urges readers to come back to the main attraction that is Christ Jesus and to actually walk the walk they talk. Some topics gone over are lax Christians versus judgemental Christians, claiming to have revelation from God, saying one will pray about something, adhering only to one denomination's set rules about Jesus, and more. Sometimes the Bible verses are quoted, and other times they are just referenced. With an uncanny voice for the truth, Viola will make readers really take a good hard look at themselves in the mirror and see if they actually see Christ.

Friday, April 22, 2011

"Fashioned by Faith" by Rachel Lee Carter

Written by an actual Christian model, this book is a must-have for women. Carter's modeling experience with her highlights and regrets are spilled onto the pages. While there is some fashion advice given, this is not a book on how to restructure your entire closet or what "looks" are modest. Rather, Carter gets at the issue of the heart. After all, fashion tips won't do a girl any good if, at the end of the day, she does not care about modesty. Bible verses and questions (with space provided to write) are included. At the end, there is even a 45-day Bible study. What's also great is that each chapter starts off with a photot of a teenage guy, a little bio, and what he thinks of modesty. Also included is a color collection of some of Carter's modeling. I'm glad I snagged this book from Thomas Nelson publishing!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

"Love Written in Stone" by Philip Carlson, MD

This book takes a deep look at what God tells us to do from a medical perspective. I'm not just talking about the Ten Commandments or old school Levitical rules but commandments of God in general. Some examples have to do with love, joy, happiness, not worrying, etc. Even though the author is a medical doctor, he does not complicate things too much or put big medical words in his writing. Things are easy to understand, and various Bible references are made with some actually quoted on the page (something I personally like). If you're looking for a scientific dissertation on Leviticus, this book isn't for you. However, if you'd like to know how following God will made you a little better, have fun reading this.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Heart of Ice" by Lis Wiehl

This heart-pumping thriller will have you turning the pages until your eyes begin to droop. Wiehl weaves a clever web of characters whose lives intersect (but not immediately so as to seem forced). You have a pyromaniac with a scarred inner and outer facade, three crime fighting women (not superheroes but those whose jobs are actually to handle crime), and a psychopath who just so happens to exude perfection. All the while, there is a story going on about a killer whose story resembles the "Craig's List" killer story from real life (although those terms are not used here). Best of all, Wiehl gets deep into the mind of the disturbed.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

"Heaven Revealed" by Paul Enns + FREE GIVEAWAY

This book has lots of good intentions but bothers me on some levels. Sure, the fact that Enns writes on heaven is fine. However, he starts off the book with how he misses his deceased wife. The rest of the book seems to convey the notion that heaven will be a fantastic place where one can be reunited with loved ones and lead the best life possible. While Jesus is mentioned--we can't get to heaven without Him, anyway--there is not an emphasis on it. For instance, what I look forward to most about heaven will not just be reunions or fantasticness but the notion that I will finally be able to love God as I should (will all my heart, all my soul, and all my mind) and that I won't be able to ever sin or fall from Him again (if this were possible, there'd need to be a New New Heaven and a New New Earth. Also, for lots of verses, Enns just assumes they mean what he wants them to mean and does not cross-reference. Take Genesis 25:8. Enns says this means Abraham was taken to heaven. Other translations add "in death" after "Abraham joined his ancestors." Also, in 1 Corinthians 15:52 (in addition to various other parts of the Bible like Revelation 20:11-15), it is said that the dead will be raised to be judged and be with the Lord at the Second Coming. Before then, the Bible refers to a deep sleep (John 11:13 amongst other places). Sure, God made exceptions (like Elijah and Enoch), but for the rest of us, one can't say without a shadow of a doubt that we'll instantly be in heaven. I do believe God controls time and that our rest will feel very short (like a person doesn't feel the number of hours they sleep). All in all, Enns' intentions don't seem all that bad. However, if you want to know what heaven will really be like, please just crack open your own Bible and see for yourself. God wants to see you face to face there (2 John 1:12).

*The publisher gave me an extra copy to give away. If you want it, leave a comment with your email and say what you look forward to most with regards to heaven.

Monday, March 28, 2011

"Thriving at College" by Alex Chediak

There are many college books out there to advise students out there. What makes this book different is that it has a focus on Christian students and is written by a college professor--who teaches engineering at a Christian institution. Depending on one's level in life, some of the lessons in this book may be redundant. However, when used as a reference book for when students have particular questions, this does a superb job. Bible verses are quoted often, and pertinent advice is given. I don't agree with everything the author says, but the overall intention is good. For instance, I think it's good for students to take a Sabbath (or whole weekend) to do no homework. However, I do like how he said that female students ought not to dumb themselves down.