Monday, February 28, 2011

"What Are You Waiting For?" by Dannah Gresh

This book on--ahem--sexuality is written with a Christian perspective. The author quotes Scripture every now and then and goes over hot-button topics that most people would blush at. The cover boasts that there is something no one tells you about sex. I hate to be a spoiler, but you guys would have discovered this early in the book anyway. The author goes back to Hebrew translations of the Bible where to have intercourse with someone was called "yada" and meant to know. This is for a one-to-one relationship between a man and a wife. In the Bible, there is another term for sex outside of marriage (often with harlots) that is translated to literally just being an exchange of bodily fluids. The author also uses statistics and simple neuroscience to get her points across. The main thing that this book focuses on is that sex outside of marriage will never be the deep and intimate "yada"; it will just be an exchange of fluids that leaves you broken and sad. While the book is geared towards females, males can read it, too.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"TrueFaced" by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, & John S Lynch

I've read a lot of theology books as a Christian reviewer, and this one is good. It revolves around grace and talks a lot about how people--Christian or otherwise--tend to put up masks that hide their real identity. People like to appear independent and polished on the outside when they are really rotting on the inside. Two rooms are used in this book. One is the Room of Good Intentions, and the other is the Room of Grace. The former involves works and trying to make God love us; the latter is where God's forgiveness transforms you and you come to grow into a deeper relationship with the Only One who loves you with unrelenting love that can never be diminished. My only criticism on this book is that it does not address trying to combat sin. The angle is that one should rest in grace. Granted, when one is fully in grace, they should want to obey God and be better about not sinning. Still, the book does a good job in showing readers to reveal their true selves and be TrueFaced in every sense of the word. The way I see it, if you never take off your mask, you may be preventing others from seeing God shine through you. Love Christ; He deserves it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Hollywood Nobody" by Lisa Samson

In terms of plot, this book is pretty engaging. There is a teenage girl as he protagonist with her own Hollywood blog. With her family being in the acting business, she is around the actual Hollywood scene quite a lot. Drama ensues when love triangles form and the girl learns about a mystery man and what her real family roots are. My only criticism would have to be the writing style. Thoughts seem to be convoluted and in a state of disarray. Whether or not this is meant to represent the thought process of the protagonist, it many annoy readers. Also, I hate to say this, but I'll just come out and say it. Most teenage books are written by authors who are past the teen age. Some of these books are well suited for teens and fit in with their culture and whatnot. However, some just seem like they are written by older authors trying to sound younger and put their foot in the door of young pop culture. Sadly, this book is the latter.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

"Angel Sister" by Ann H. Gabhart

Oftentimes, people pass by the story of Moses. We know he was left in a basket and sent down a river only to be found by Egyptians who took care of him. But how did he feel, and how was he impacted? While this book is not about Moses, it has similar themes of abandonment and redemption. A small girl is left in front of a church. She is all alone and wants someone to rescue her--an angel specifically. She is taken into a home and learns what it's like to have a real family. Dramatic family tension is clear in the pages. Even though the little girls gets a family, she does not get a perfect family. Also, with the simplicity of the twentieth century, readers will have a paradigm shift. The plot is engaging, but the evoked emotions are what will really get to you. Sympathy will defy logic and turn to empathy as readers put themselves in the place of that little girl. The most important thing to take away from this book is that whenever we accept someone--regardless of their age--not only will we seem like good angels, but we shall reflect Christ. This is a more between-the-lines message but still a good one at that.

"Then he said to them, 'Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest'” (Luke 9:48).

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

Friday, February 18, 2011

"Life, In Spite of Me" by Kristen Jane Anderson and Tricia Goyer

Although the ending of this book revolves around joy, the beginning has some tough points. Depression and its various mistresses are discussed in great detail. This book is great for people that need to put their life into perspective. If you've ever thought you'd had a bad day, books like this will show you it's not really all that bad. Or, if your life situation is the same as or worse than what is initially described in this book, you shall find hope. If the authors can overcome tough times, then so can you. This book isn't some theological treatise on how to feel well. Rather, it is just women spilling their hearts out onto pages of paper. With all the complexity of religion, these women put that aside and dwell on the simple notion of Christ's Cross and Love. Since there are some serious moments in this book, I would not recommend it for young readers who may not be mature enough to internalize this message.

Monday, February 14, 2011

"The Chase" by Jerry Bridges with Jay and Jen Howver

This is a contemporary adaptation of "The Pursuit of Holiness," which is also from Navpress publishers. Things like definitions, examples, advice, habits, and duties may seem like simple things to cover, but that isn't exactly the case when something as sensitive as holiness comes up. Some people think they've got it; others think they'll never achieve it. This book dives deep into what holiness is and how to get closer to it. The contemporary language in describing the Scripture and giving advice is very nice and flows well. However, newer translations of certain Bible verses may not evoke the same feelings from readers that are used to other translations. Still, I've reviewed the regular "The Pursuit of Holiness" and see this as less academic (for Bible scholars) and more laid-back, while still delivering the punches of theological teaching.

"Learning to Hear God" by Jan Johnson

As another reference for retreats, this book is a bit better than some of Johnson's other retreat books. While there is the same introduction on what a retreat is and how to go about it, something is different. Sure, the same structure of repeated Bible verses and prompts / questions are provided, but the explanation and depth of verses are very well researched and lined up together. Many Old Testament verses are included that show how people listened to and interacted with God before they had a concrete "Bible" to hold in their hands. Since this is something many Christians tend to gloss over when reading the Old Testament stories, Johnson's emphasis on the simple fact really hits home. Readers put themselves in the characters' shoes and try to understand what it was like to listen to God directly. In the process, hopefully readers learn how to get more out of their Bibles and really connect.

"Living in the Companionship of God" by Jan Johnson

This book is geared towards a retreat audience, but anyone can use it. After all, as the book points out, anyone (alone or in a group) can take time aside to focus on God anywhere and for however long they wish. The book first defines the notion of retreat and then starts going into how to analyze Scripture and grow closer to God. Verses and sections of chapters are wholly repeated three or four times. Questions and prompts are given with space in the book for readers to respond. From having confidence in God to pouring out your heart to Him, this book is helpful. Some famous quotations and prayers from (thank goodness not "to") saints are included. This short book can be completed in a day and so should not be the sole resource one uses on a retreat.

Monday, February 7, 2011

"The Promises She Keeps" by Erin Healy

Wowza; this book is good. The narration jumps between characters and intertwines their lives. Promise is a young singer with a terminal disease. Chase is an autistic artist who prophesizes and is a Christian. Chelsea is Chase's sister who takes care of him with the help of hired Wes. Porta is an old witch (literally) who is seeking to find immortality. Zack is Porta's son who is infatuated with Promise but has drug problems that try to mask his strained relationship wit his mother. Anyway, through a series of near death collisions, Porta thinks Promise has eternal life. She manipulates her and involves her in pagan rituals. Chase loves Promise and tries to warn her about Porta's evil. Chase also prophesizes and predicts a few deaths. Anyway, through a whole hodgepodge of co-connected events, the climax rises. Several religious themes are embedded. To get into the plot would take too long, but I assure you I took my time with this book and enjoyed it very much so. There are no romantic scenes, so younger readers may enjoy this book. There is also a discussion guide at the end with questions.