Monday, December 31, 2012

"A Prayer to Our Father" by Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson

As someone who appreciates Hebrew roots and is trying to learn Hebrew, I was excited to read this book.  I figured it would be advanced enough so I could practice my meager translation skills (book provides full Hebrew spelling with vowel marks, transliteration, and English of the Our Father prayer) yet simple enough that I could keep up (many are familiar with the Our Father prayer).  

I'm not going to lie.  As I read the beginning of the book, I got the background info for how the two authors began to work together.  After that, I realized I was going to read multiple chapters on how the duo found the site where Yeshua gave His infamous speech.  At first I thought it'd be a boring waste of pages. (Did I tell you I am impetuous?)  However, I was pleasantly surprised at how well-written that section was.  Instead of drudging through those pages to get to the "good stuff," I found myself transplanted to Israel with the authors.  I saw the land, I felt the weather, I heard the sounds, etc.  I felt like a child again when a book would take me on an adventure--an archaeological adventure this time.

After that part of the book was over, I got to the "good stuff."  Chapters were short and to the point.  They dissected each chunk of the infamous Our Father prayer.  While they were concise, they were packed with facts.  I felt as if I were learning a lot but not overwhelmed--a difficult skill to master in the genre of non-fiction.  Additionally, I was impressed at how well researched this book was.  The citations were excellent.  Instead of a huge bibliography at the end of the book, there were citations at the bottom of pages when things were quoted.  So, if I was ever confused about a particular Scripture passage or scholarly quote, all the information I needed to look stuff up on my own was right there on the page.  Now, I admit that I did not look up all of the references in this book.  However, those that I did were accurate, and I do not think any detail was "fudged."

Readers should be noted that this book implements the Tetragrammaton.  The book clearly states that the pronunciation Yehovah is preferred by the authors and that the way we pronounce YHWH is not nearly as important as our intentions.    

Overall, I really liked this book.  It's really well researched and has fun little stories in it that readers will enjoy.  It's simple enough yet advanced enough so that anyone can learn something new while not feeling as if everything is going "over their head."  Doing some research on this book, I was a bit alarmed at some comments on the internet.  Some Jews said Gordon promoted Christianity by co-writing about the New Testament with a Christian.  Meanwhile, some Christians said Johnson was promoting Karaite Judaism by co-writing with a Jew.  So, both sides were angry.  Hilarious consternation aside, I feel both Jews and Christians can benefit from this book.  It is written with a very scholarly perspective that does not seem "preachy" in any way.  As a Messianic Jew, if you asked me whether I thought this book felt "Jewish" or "Christian," I honestly would not be able to give you a straight answer.  I did not feel like Yeshua was promoted as the Messiah, and I also did not feel like Yeshua was demoted from being the Messiah.  Yes, it was that objectively written.  Jew, Christian, or whatever, everyone can learn something from this book without feeling like they are being swayed towards one faith or the other. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"The Live | Dead Journal"

This book is a tough one to read.  It shares stories from countless missionaries who have risked their lives to share the Good News with unreached people groups.  This book particularly focuses on unreached people in Africa, most of whom are Muslim.  For 30 days, there are short passages from missionaries, which are often followed by descriptions of particular people groups.  This includes a photo of an indigenous person and a brief synopsis of the culture of that particular people group.  Interspersed throughout the book are several full-color photos and artwork.  There is even space in the book to journal each of the 30 days about your thoughts and responses to what you are reading.  This book will definitely give you a good dose of humility.  As you read each page, you will feel like you are in Africa, feeling the pain of the missionaries.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

"Nowhere but Up: The Story of Justin Bieber's Mom" by Pattie Mallette with A.J. Gregory

I am going to be honest.  The only reason why I agreed to review this book is because I wanted to know the history of Justin Bieber's mom. I know Justin Bieber has a Yeshua tattoo, and I wanted to know where his faith came from.  As I learned the story of Pattie's faith, I was touched.  However, I did not see any Hebrew roots in her faith.  I did learn in the book, though, that Justin's manager is Jewish, and he is the one who influenced Justin's Hebrew perspective.  I'm not going to judge the heart of Justin or his mother.  I was just curious where the Hebrew roots came from.  This book did not really address that much.  That aside, the first half of this book is extremely sad.  The second half is pretty happy.  The first half goes into the sexual abuse that Pattie encountered at VERY young ages.  The stories in the pages are so horrid and depressing.  Pattie also discloses her relationships that were toxic in her youth.  The second half of the book focuses more on Justin and his musical success.  The middle of the book even has full-color photos.  If you like stories about redemption, you may like this book.  What I found particularly interesting is the part in the book where Pattie says a stranger came up to her and told her that God told him to tell her that she should work with "the Jewish man."  This was referring to Justin's manager, which the man had no idea about.  The man just came with his message.  Anyway, I was surprised that Pattie immediately thought this was a message from God.  I am not saying it wasn't.  I am just surprised that there seemed to be no discernment.  There are false prophets in the world, and we always need to be discerning.  Just because someone comes up to you with a message does not mean it is from God.  Again, I'm not discounting what she heard.  I'm just saying we should always use discernment and never blindly accept anything.  

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"Phariseectomy" by Peter Haas

This clever little book will have you half-chuckling, half-repenting.  With humor that is candid as can be, Haas confronts the slue of hypocrisies that plague the modern Church.  Most--but not all--of the hypocrisies spoken of have to do with church or church services.  These are mainly talking about how people criticize churches and promote their own agenda.  Then there were also the hypocrisies that are more general that have to do with guilt and shame.  What I do like was how Haas said that most people talk about "enduring our cross" and do not mention the "joy set before us" that is the reason why we "endure our cross."  That was a great point and really made me think.  I also liked how Haas said that we will follow the law out of faith when we truly love God, not because we are feeling like we "have to" follow the law.  I was a bit upset that Haas did not talk about the joy of celebrating the Sabbath or the Biblical Feasts, but at least he did not condemn those things or say that Christians shouldn't do them.  Overall, this book is nice.  It has a few typos here and there but nothing major doctrine-wise.  This book has more of a non-denominational feel to it and not so much a Messianic Jewish feel to it, but it still conveys the main points of grace and faith and the deity of the Messiah.

Friday, November 16, 2012

"No More Fear" by Ashley Evans

What I liked about this book is that it started out giving some numerology lessons to the reader.  It talked about the significance of the number 40 in Scripture.  After that, there were 40 chapters for each reading day.  The chapters are so short that one can either read the book in one sitting or just take 5min out of each day to read the section.  The author gives insight into breaking the power of fear.  Stories like David and Goliath are analyzed, which comes as no surprise since that is a popular story about conquering fear.  The reading style at times sounds like a self-help book, but I suppose that it inevitable considering the nature of what this book aims to address: fear.  The author gives some personal stories every now and then and even gives suggestions for readers on specific actions to take to live more fully in their God-give role of authority.  There were times when I thought this book emphasized man's power to overcome fear too much.  However, at the end of the book, the author reminds people to remember that all our help comes from God and not ourselves.  At the back of the book, there are also intriguing discussion questions, as well as lists of Scripture verses quoted that deal with fear, which I liked.  I like the cover, too, but I'm not supposed to judge covers, right?  ;)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Alone" by Andy Braner

This book is geared at young adults, teens, and preteens.  However, the underlying message can apply to readers of all ages.  This book deals with the loneliness that is in the aftermath of the social networking revolution.  With hundreds of friends on facebook, people still feel "friendless."  This book addresses those issues as well as several societal issues related to "fitting in."  It talks about joy, community, real men, real women, addictions, and much more.  There is Bible quoted every so often.  For those not familiar with the Bible, there is enough Scripture to get them thinking but not too much to overwhelm them.  While Braner heavily quotes from the New Testament, I did enjoy how he brought up stories from the Old Testament and connected them to modern day issues.  This book isn't too long, and it is to the point. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

"Placebo" by Steven James

This book is like a really long movie.  There is a host of characters, action, suspense, and plenty of scenes you definitely did not see coming.  It goes into the theoretical idea of how minds interact on the quantum level.  Call it scientific or call it new age--it will get you thinking.  I won't give away the plot.  You can read that your yourself...if you can keep up with all the twists and turns.  What I did not like was how this book got a bit racy at times.  I'm not going to say this book is X-rated, but I will say it is R-rated.  There were places where I would have liked scenes to be cleaner.  Additionally, when the book does mention God, it is not conclusive that He exists.  Also, when Jesus comes up, His Deity is not stressed nearly enough, and readers are left wondering.  Granted, these are CHARACTERS talking about Jesus, but still.  This book plot wasn't bad.  If it were a movie, I'm sure it'd get great reviews.  However, due to some racy scenes and violent episodes, I definitely would not recommend this to close friends.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The High Calling Newsletter

From October 24 2012
 (, there are quite a few helpful articles posted.  They aren't really all that Biblical in terms of quoting Scripture.  Some articles do not even quote any verses.  But they still shine through with positive messages of kindness and helping others.  Emotions come out of the screen as you feel like you are in the narrator's shoes.  One articles on micromanagement was particularly interesting because it made readers think about why others do what they do.  Some people may come off as pushy, and knowing their psychology makes it easier to show them kindness and sympathy instead of just getting annoyed at them.  Another articles talks about how little actions count.  The actions mentioned in the article are not too life-changing, but they will make readers wonder, "Why are little things I could do in my life that will make a big difference over time?".  I like the article about how kids teach adults about the love of God.  I won't spoil it for you.  You can watch the video that accompanies the writing.  I really liked the article about doing something with your life instead of just sitting around wasting time.  The article described a friend of mine to the tee, so this article was very relatable for me.  There are other articles on the newsletter.  Go read them.  While you're at it, read the newsletters of other weeks.  If you want some entertainment and solid news, know that this is a clean source of reading material.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

"Flight of Fancy" bu Laurie Alice Eakes

I am not going to lie.  I originally suggested to review this book because I like aeronautics.  So, I commenced my reading.  And I must say, I really enjoyed this book.  Sometimes books like these give me the vibe that they'll be books for "hopeless romantics."  I'm not going to say there was no romance in this book.  However, I did not find it overly cheesy.  I also did not find it graphic either, which is good.  What I enjoyed was Eakes' writing style.  You could really tell that she research the time period of the Luddites, as well as the science of hot-air balloons of the time.  There were stories within stories.  There were several characters, but the story never got overwhelming to the point where it was hard to keep up.  I fell into Eakes' world that she penned and found myself enjoying the story.  I will not give away the plot.  You can go on any website to look that up.  What I am giving you is my opinion of the book.  It is heartwarming and full of action / suspense, too.  A great book.  I read it within a couple of days, and so should you.  :)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

"A Farmer's Daughter: Recipes from a Mennonite Kitchen" by Dawn Stoltzfus

This is a fun little cookbook, if I must say so myself.  The book has recipes for beverages, appetizers, breads (I was surprised to see this in a cookbook), salads, sandwiches, soups, "comfort food", main dishes, desserts, and more.  What I like is that there is a simple section in the back.  For those that are new too cooking, this is a great place to start.  Throughout the book, there are little comments from the author that add a nice touch.  There are even tips on presentation and entertaining guests.  You will not find pictures of food in this book.  However, the directions are very simple and quick.  They are so concise that some of them barely take up a page.  I honestly don't care that this book is written by a Mennonite.  I just like the recipes.  :)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sheri Rose Shepherd Exclusive I

"Desiring a Happily Ever After"

"You Don't Need a Man to Push the "Play Button" for Your Life to Begin!"

"There Are a Lot of Reasons to Give Up, but There Are Greater Reasons to Finish Strong"

"We Are on the Same Team and Fighting the Same Enemy"

Friday, October 5, 2012

"Undaunted" the Movie

This movie is quite short but still stay on your mind long after the credits roll.  It is about the life of Josh McDowell.  To be honest, I didn't really know much about McDowell before this movie.  Apparently, he is an influential preacher and speaker.  Anyway, the movie is a short memoir of his early life.  At first, I thought the part where McDowell walks around and narrates in between the acted out scenes was annoying.  However, over time, I found his curt comments sincerely touching.  I don't want to spoil the movie with all the details, but I will say you will be shocked and enraged at what McDowell had to go through as a child.  There were times in the movie where I cried and other times when I was boiling with anger.  Through McDowell's troubled childhood and into his young adulthood, you will experience the journey of a broken atheist that culminates in a genuine Christian.  What is breathtaking is the people McDowell had to forgive when he met Christ.  What's great is that this DVD also comes with a little companion booklet to keep or give away to a friend.  This movie is definitely for the weak of heart.

"1 Message" the Movie

When I started this movie--I am not going to lie--I did not like it.  The main character was wearing a skimpy outfit to greet her fiance as he left for work in the morning.  I thought to myself, "Sigh.  This is going to be one of THOSE boring skanky romantic chic flicks."  However, as the movie progressed, I really enjoyed it.  And I'll tell you why.  In the movie, the stunning beauty gets breast cancer and has to have a double mastectomy.  In case you don't know what this term means, her chest had to be cut off.  Afterwards, her fiance leaves her for another woman.  The protagonist spirals into depression and doesn't even leave her house for fear embarrassment.  What I like is how the movie flashes back and forth in time between the woman before and after her mastectomy.  Anyway, in her depression, the woman starts to chat online with a mysterious man whom she later falls in love with.  I would get all riled up about the message this sends to people about giving personal information out online.  However, there is a line in the movie where her friend warns her and the woman says she is an adult and knows what she's doing.  So, at least, this film doesn't promote children giving out information online.  Anyway, I won't spoil the ending of the movie, but it will make you cry.  This movie will really make people think.  For women--what value do you have besides your looks?  For men--if a woman lost her looks, would you still stay with her?  This is a great film, and it will hold your attention.  Great flick.       

Thursday, October 4, 2012

"Dreams and Visions: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World?" by Tom Doyle with Greg Webster

This book immediately got my attention and managed to hold it.  It is about Muslims having dreams and visions of Christ.  What I like about this book is that it does not just focus on Muslims in America.  It deals mostly with people in the Middle East.  The pages comes alive as history and culture collide to give the reader a full grasp of what is going on in the Muslim world.  The stories are from both men and women.  Excitement enters the pages as readers learn firsthand the dangers of converting to Christianity in Islam nations.  After reading about the horror stories of converts, Christians are given a wake-up call about the devotion of their own faith.  If they lived in a country that physically persecuted Christians, would they still hold to their beliefs?  I will not give away all the details of each story, but they will be on your mind for a while.  What's also great is that the end of the book has tips on loving and befriending Muslims.  Muslims--like any other people group--need the love of Christ displayed to them.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"Because You Care: Spiritual Encouragement for Caregivers" by Cecil Murphey with Twila Belk (with photographs by Betty Fletcher)

This is a very nice little gift book for those who are caregivers.  It is short and has nice glossy pages.  The photography is also very vibrant.  The font is also easy on the eyes.  The book goes over various perspectives on caregiving, from caring for spouses to caring for parents to even--sadly--caring for children.  From those who are just plain ill to those who will never get better (and just get worse), the true stories in this book will tug at your heart.  The stories are quick, but they convey emotion.  There is some Bible quoted every so often for encouragement.  This is not a book stock-full of Bible verses to encourage caretakers.  It does not even get too theologically deep.  It is a simple book for simple people who are caregivers. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

"My Journey to Heaven" by Marvin J. Besteman with Lorilee Craker

This was book an interesting read.  What I liked was that this book did not give too many details.  The author said he peeked into heaven but was not able to get int.  He apparently met Peter, who didn't find his name in the Book of Life...for that day.  The author was told he had to go back to earth because he had more work to do.  The few details given about heaven are written as being "indescribable."  The author does not see Yah.  He does see angels and lots of babies, though.  The book devotes a good portion of pages to the author's life and giving back-stories on people he met in heaven.  The only time I was skeptical was when the author talked about a sea in heaven.  There is no sea in heaven (Rev 21:1).  But, later, he called this sea a lake.  So, maybe he just couldn't tell.  Other than that, the book is nice.  There is some lack of knowledge when the author talks about the Malak YHWH (Angel of the Lord) and refers to this Angel like it's an ordinary angel and not YHWH Himself.  Also, when I say "author," I am talking about the man who had the heavenly vision.  The book is actually written with help after the "author" passed away.  Overall, this book is interesting.  However, if you really want to read about a heavenly encounter, I encourage you to read "Heaven is for Real."       

Sunday, August 26, 2012

"The Story" by Steven James

HalleluYAH.  This book is excellent.  As a professional book reviewer, I get countless books to review.  Some are better than others.  When a book does not compel me or I think it's a bit boring, I sort of rush to finish it.  You know--just get it over with.  When I get a book I really enjoy, I like to take my time with it.  Savor it.  However, for this book, I enjoyed it so much that I was in a rush to finish it just to know what laid on the next pages.  Now, since this book is about Christianity, it's not as if I didn't know what was going to happen.  Having read the Bible a few times over, I know the story.  However, what was page-turning, was the twist that James had on the story.  He uses his creative and literary skills to put the story into his own words.  He quotes Scripture, of course, but he ties in storytelling, imagery, and poetry.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It made me once again glad about the Gospel.  Just as the Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each had their own perspective, Steven has his as well.  All of us share in the story of Yeshua.  Great book.  Read it.

Friday, August 24, 2012

"The Power of the Prophetic Blessing" by John Hagee

This book is stock-full of history with regards to the prophetic.  There are some fascinating connections with the Old Testament and Yeshua. One chapter goes over how the story of Joseph in Genesis parallels the story of Yeshua (of course, only to a degree).  That was quite fascinating.  Tons of Bible verses are quoted, which is nice.  Abortion and other modern topics are discussed, as well, with a lot of passion on the author's part.  What I particularly liked was how Hagee emphasized the history and fulfilled prophecy of the Jews--even going back to the 12 blessings of Israel's sons in Genesis and how they are fulfilled in modern history.  Hagee also talks of loving Jews and being at peace with them.  The history that Hagee goes into for the Jewish people and Israel is great.  There were little errors here and there in the book.  In one instance, the book of Jeremiah is listed as being from the Torah.  The Torah is just the 5 books of Moses (first 5 books of the Bible).  The whole OT is collectively known as the Tanach, which would include Jeremiah.  My main criticism is when Hagee talks about the Name of "the Lord."  His Name ain't Lord.  Lord is just a title.  His Name is YHWH.  There are times when Hagee uses "Jehovah," which is also erroneous and not His true Name.  That aside, this book is very scholarly.  I particularly enjoyed the large print.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Rules of Engagement: Preparing for your role in the spiritual battle" by Derek Prince

For a book on spiritual warfare, this book ain't bad.  It focuses first on the reader's relationship with Christ.  Grace and basic theology is covered.  There is an emphasis on being re-created children of God that are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.  While there is some talk of angels and demons and even the Genesis 6:4 incident, this book is not a go-to guide for exorcisms.  Still, it gives some good detail on the demonic realm.  I also like the word studies that are given every so often.  Scripture is heavily quoted, too, which is a plus.  My one complaint is when the author implies "Jehovah" is the Name of "the LORD."  This is untrue.  His Name is YHWH.  The word Jehovah comes from putting alternate vowel points on YHWH in an order to conceal the true pronunciation of the Name.  Plus, in Hebrew, Jehovah curses His real Name in Hebrew.  That aside, the book has some good points.  Always discern!

"An Invitation to the Supernatural Life" by Michele Perry

Whenever I read books like these that focus on the "supernatural" and "visions" and "revelations," I always try to go in with a discerning mindset.  Fortunately, I thought this book did a pretty good job.  When angels were mentioned, the author said not to pray to them or worship them.  When the book of Enoch was quoted, Perry was clear to note it as history and not as part of the canon of Scripture.  I wish she would have mentioned how--due to the time-frame of how late the book of Enoch was written--the book of Enoch has little historic credibility as being written by Enoch himself.  But I digress.  Perry also talks of her encounters in other countries during mission work.  She is even candid on her personal struggles and medical issues as a child.  I particularly liked the parts where adopted children were discussed.  That touched my heart.  For what Perry talks about, she is mostly spot-on.  Are her visions real?  I have no idea.  I didn't see them.  What I did like, though, was how she said that when she saw Jesus, He was not Caucasian but looked Middle-Eastern.  I liked that.  Yeshua was a Jew, so that is good to hear.  Overall, this is a fun book for learning about the supernatural.  It won't tell you everything about the heavenly realms, but it's a good starter book for those interested in the "supernatural life." 

"Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day" by Garry R. Morgan

Considering how slim this book is, I was wondering if it could hold up to the claim it makes on its cover.  Surprisingly, it did.  Now, with the swarms of religions in the world, this book obviously can't cover them ALL.  However, it covers the main ones.  What was great was that the book has different chapters for different "types" of certain religions.  There are different types of Islam expounded upon.  There is historical Judaism separated from modern Judaism with different chapters.  I was also happy how a paragraph on Messianic Judaism was thrown in.  Catholicism, Protestantism, Eastern Orthodox, and Evangelical Christianity all had different chapters.  The author did a good job of saying that the different "flavors" of Christianity hold the same tenets of basic faith even if they have certain differences.  However, when it came to "Christian" cults like JW's, Christian Science, Mormonism, etc, the author did specify that these steer far away from standard Christian theology as laid out in the Bible.  The book also covers tribal religions of Africa and Native Americans, which was interesting to read about.  Hinduism and some other Asian religions are also covered.  There is even a chunk of chapters on the New Age Movement and similar religions.  This book holds up to its cover claim.  Great for questioning teens and young adults.  Would make a great gift to accompany a Bible.

"Miracles" by Tim Stafford

It's ironic how a story that centers around a man in a wheelchair getting healed has a man with crutches on the cover.  But I digress.  From the beginning of this book, Stafford sets some facts straight.  He is a Christian.  He believes in Jesus and believes in the Bible.  He is also a journalist.  He investigates what he hears and doesn't "just believe" without looking at the facts.  Throughout the book, some very real miracles are chronicled...along with some very fake miracles.  Aside from those juicy stories, Stafford also dives into deep questions.  What is healing / miracles for?  What is the difference between the natural and the supernatural?  Why do some people get healing / miracles while others do not?  Many other questions like these are expounded upon.  Are all the answers given?  No.  Some may only be answered on the other side of this life.  However, with Scripture and clear logic, Stafford takes a stab at dissecting this issues that keep many up at night.  This book is not too long, and the formatting is simple.  It's a good book for reading each night before you go to sleep.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"Everything the Bible says about PRAYER"

This book is skinny, but--wowza--is it packed!  Chapter after chapter is stock-full of verses on prayer.  Each chapter just has a paragraph or two from the writers.  The rest of each chapter is straight verses from the Bible.  From Old Testament to New Testament, this book covers a lot of bases when it comes to prayer.  Does this book have EVERY verse on prayer?  I have no idea...but it sure has a lot of verses!  I like how the book is split into categories.  There are parts about how to pray, how YHWH hears us, adversity, blessings, and much more.  Numerous translations are quoted at the discretion of the compilers for this book.  I liked how every now and then some translation would throw in "Yahweh."  Some translations like "The Message" were fun for comprehension but aren't the most accurate.  For instance, Proverbs 30:4 is quoted in The Message.  Instead of the correct "what is His  Son's Name?" we have "what are the names of his sons?".  Now, I'm all for dumbing things down so people can understand, but why is the Son changed to sons?  This completely changes the main idea of the verse, which is talking about Yeshua--the Messiah.  

"inSignificant" by Chris Travis

At first glance, this book seems like any other Christian self-help book for those that are depressed or don't feel they have any worth.  And, that is partly true.  However, what makes this book different is that the author draws on his experiences teaching at at-risk high school in NYC.  When you read the book, you are put in his shoes and begin to see through his eyes.  What starts out as aggravation and annoyance teaching "delinquents" turns into sympathy and compassion as you learn that many at-risk kids have no hope and no self-worth.  When ethnicity comes into the picture, the story becomes even more sad.  It's one thing to have low self-esteem.  It's quite another thing to think you're not good enough just because of what you look like or where your parents came from.  Through anecdotes that are painfully honest, Travis chronicles his story of seeing at-risk kids as bothersome to seeing them as significant children of YHWH.  This book will touch your heart.  It will be hard to read at times, but it will remind you that EVERYONE is special in YHWH's eyes.  No one is too far gone for grace.  We all have special gifts and talents.  No one is "insignificant."  

I am...Gabriel

My very first movie review!  This is certainly exciting.  So, this movie is about a mysterious little boy who comes to a depressing small town.  He is on a mission to bring hope.  With the title and cover, it is pretty obvious that the boy is a malak (angel / messenger in Hebrew).  While the "I am Gabriel" phrase is from the Bible, I would have preferred if the ellipses were taken out or the "am" was in lowercase letters.  The whole "I AM" is reminiscent of Exodus 3:14.  However, all throughout the movie, the character playing Gabriel does not take credit.  He gives all the glory to "God" and even says "I am just a messenger."  Phew!   No problem then with Colossians 2:18.  On the whole "God" topic, I was a bit annoyed when there was all this talk of "God" and "Lord" and not much mentioning of any NAME.  Sure, there were some crosses in the background and even the mentioning of "church," but I wanted to hear a NAME.  Luckily, towards the end of the movie, the Name "Jesus" and "Christ" came up.  While I personally prefer the Hebrew Yeshua, at least there was some pointing to Christianity with "Jesus" and "Christ."  Whenever people say "Lord" and "God," I think, "Who are you talking about?"  So, that was taken care of.  Also interesting was the notion of "prayer mats" in the movie.  Gabriel encourages the townsfolk to have prayer mats so they remember to talk to "God" more.  While this is all good--I am sorry--but the first thing my mind went to were Islamic prayer mats.  And Gabriel's middle-eastern-looking button down outfit did not help.  I am sure this was just coincidence, but I got a good laugh out of it.  That aside, I would say this movie is "family friendly."  There was not swearing, and there was no sexual content.  The women dressed modestly in the movie, which was a plus.  The only immodest instance was when a woman bent over to pick up something on her porch.  For a bit, the viewer was able to see down the top of her dress.  This seems to be a mistake on the costume department and not a purposeful thing.  In terms of the acting, the little boy playing Gabriel did an excellent job.  The other actors did well, too, but Gabriel outshined them all.  The scenes were also very well-made to be realistic.  You could tell the crew tried to make it lifelike...particularly with the open box of pretzels on the sheriff's desk.  I enjoyed the song at the beginning with a woman singing in the background.  For the rest of the movie, there was mostly instrumental background music.  I would have preferred more vocals in the background, but that's just a preference of mine.  Overall, this is a fun movie for all ages.  It has hope, miracles, and a great story.         

Monday, August 20, 2012

"Following Atticus" by Tom Ryan

I don't know about you, but when I see a puppy in shoes, I think it is adorable.  So, I agreed to review this book.  I know one should not judge a book by its cover, but we all do it.  However, this review will go into the detail of the book.  The story chronicles an amazing set of journeys between a man and his dog Atticus.  They climb gargantuan mountains together--sometimes even in the harsh winters.  The book even gets scary at times when the dog gets sick.  Also interesting is that the story starts out with a different dog.  Besides the human-dog bond that is expounded upon, there is some background on other human relationships, family and otherwise.  There is even some background on the author's job.  There are fun little stories throughout the book that will add humor for the reader.  In terms of belief, this book mentions "God" every now and then but is not "religious."  The author is a pantheist (believes "God" is "nature") and sometimes refers to his dog as "a little Buddha."  While I do not hold the author's same beliefs (I myself believe in the God of the Jews, the Messiah YHWH), I must say that the book did not push the author's beliefs.  When I read the book, I never felt like his beliefs were pushed on me.  Instead, I merely felt like the author was sharing his life--dog, job, beliefs, everything--without leaving anything out.  In this book, there is also included some glossy spreads of the dog Atticus in the wilderness.  They are quite cute.

"FOOD Family Style" by Leigh Oliver Vickery

I will admit that I am not very kitchen savvy.  My cooking skills are not phenomenal, and I often make very simple food that requires little to no preparation.  When I saw "simple" on the cover of this book, I thought I'd check it out.  What surprised me was how simple the recipes really were.  Most recipes were under a page, and I could literally understand what to do.  If you know me, you will know this is a big deal.  What I also liked were how the ingredients were basic.  There were not a lot of weird exotic spices or ingredients that I'd have no idea where they'd be in the supermarket.  There is also an index and symbols for different types of dishes (vegetarian, easy to double, gluten-free, etc).  I particularly enjoyed the chapters thrown in that talk about what to keep in your kitchen and suggested ideas for dinner conversation.  Unique was a section for making food that'd be easy to include children in.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It has everything from snacks to desserts to beverages to full meals.  Everything you need is in one book.  Plus, some dishes just sound plain fun.  Cranberry salsa?  Blueberry biscuits?  Sign me up!  :)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

"Desperate for Hope" by Bruce W. Martin

This book is all about finding hope in the difficult situations life throws at us.  However, what I like is that this is not a cookie-cutter book.  It does not say that suffering will disappear if we are just more "good" or "holy."  This book actually follows the story of Job primarily (along with other small Bible stories on suffering).  It chronicles how the righteous in Yeshua (recall, it is only by Yeshua that we are righteous--not of our own works) will suffer in this world.  There is not even a hint of the prosperity gospel or the health & wealth gospel that plagues America.  Martin makes the point that Yeshua suffered, and so must we.  Heartbreaking is the fact that Martin parallels this book with his own personal struggles.  Family accounts of rape and misfortune, coupled with his own person infertility and adoption woes, fill the pages.  When you finish reading this book, you won't have some twelve-step plan for overcoming suffering.  What you will have, though, is hope.  Hope that Yeshua will fulfill every promise He made and that He is with you...even to the end of the age.  ;)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

"Cruel Harvest" by Fran Grubb

Man, is this a sad book.  As the pages turned, there were times my jaw literally dropped open and tears spilled from my eyes.  The incredibly difficult life Grubb lived will leap off the pages and make you want to console her.  Throughout the memoir, readers will learn of abuse and molestation and shattered self-esteem.  Worst of all is that most of the story is told through the eyes of a child--Grubb in her youth.  Also fascinating is Grubb's faith in the book.  There is no specific account of why she believed in Yeshua.  We just know she did and never gave up.  I suppose when you've got nothing left and no one to help you, you can only turn to the Creator of the Universe.  Also fascinating is the fact that Grubb managed to marry later in life after all the abuse she suffered.  The bulk of the book's details revolve around the bad events, and there is not much explanation for the good events.  This book will remind readers that they don't "have it that bad."  They will be encouraged by Grubb.  If she could survive years of abuse and molestation from her father, then readers can get through their rough patches.  There is hope for us all, and Grubb's story is inspirational.  Most fascinating of all is that she forgave her father and even referred to him as "Daddy" all throughout the book.  Reminds me of when Yeshua called Judas "friend" even as he betrayed Him.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

"When Bad Christians Happen to Good People" by Dave Burchett

Every now and then I come across a book that just looks like a fun read.  And this is one of those books.  I mean, the title should make you cackle with laughter or at least chuckle softly if you are a more reserved person.  Anyway, as the title suggests, the book covers the various hypocrisies in the modern Church.  I say modern because it does not dive too deep into Old Testament prophet books that go into the hypocrisy.  But the book does quote heavily from the New Testament and the words of Yeshua.  I personally liked the part where it talked about modern-day Christians not knowing enough theology.  Because--let's face it--if you can't explain what you believe or if you don't even know what you believe, that's a recipe for disaster.  While this book has some fun humor in it, it can be a bit slow at times.  But, for some people, they really need to read it.  This book has tough love.  It will be hard to read at times, but it delivers Truth.  Trust in Yeshua and take the plank out of your eye.  I'm still working on that. ;)   

Thursday, July 19, 2012

"The Searchers" by Joseph Loconte

This is going to be a hard review to write.  This book is "Christian."  It has some Bible in it and talks about the importance of Jesus.  That's all great and lovely.  The reason why I am not giving this book a great review is because--I'm sorry to say this--I found it boring.  Now, that's not to say everyone will find it boring.  For the philosophical reading type people who adore literature, this will make an excellent coffee-shop book.  I don't even like coffee.  Jokes aside, I felt like this book was a collection of essays.  It is not a story but rather a bunch of ideas from history and literature (even quoting pagan literature; oh my!) that talk about man's quest for the divine.  The Road to Emmaus story is the backbone to make connections.  I'm sure someone will love this book.  However, for me, it just didn't cut it in terms of being a page-turner.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

"The Brave" by Hayley & Michael DiMarco

This book is geared towards young people, but I feel the underlying messages apply to all.  It is about being brave not by sheer strength but rather by trust and faith in a God more powerful than anything in the world.  There are not that many chapters, and the fun light blue font is exciting on the pages.  I've read work by Hayley DiMarco before and have enjoyed it.  While this book flowed well, there were times when you could tell where she was writing and parts where her husband was writing.  I am tempted to criticize this.  However, I will not since a male perspective may benefit male readers.  But I digress.  In terms of Scripture, it is quoted and referenced where appropriate.  The tone is simple enough so that new Christians who may not have read the Bible will still understand what is going on.  Also, the tone is advanced enough so that mature Christians will not be totally bored.  Overall, the book was nice.  What I did not necessarily like was a comment on how people get divorced because they are disobedient.  While I think the authors had good intentions, I doubt they thought of scenarios where a spouse is obeying God but is forced to get divorced when their spouse either cheats on them or is abusing/endangering them physically with violence.  Overall, this book ain't bad.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

"Mary Magdalene" by Diana Wallis Taylor

Having absolutely loved Taylor's "Journey to the Well," I was very excited to read this book.  It follows the story of Mary Magdalene, the woman whom Yeshua Christ exorcised seven demons.  While the story was indeed comepelling, I must say the book was not as good as her other book.  Let me explain why.  In "Journey to the Well," the story was about the woman whom Yeshua met at a well and talked to briefly (her face-time in the Bible--so to speak--is very short).  So, there was more literary freedom to write about the woman and "make stuff up," horrible as that sounds.  However, I feel like for a character such as Mary Magdalene, there are things that one can not just make up.  While they make the story interesting, they are just that--literarily made up.  Also, in terms of adequately representing Jews in the time of Yeshua, there left much to be desired.  In Christ's day, no one would have called Him Jesus.  They would have used His Hebrew Name.  Also, while some of the Gospel was written with Mary in the scene, I was disappointed when blood and water was not reported as flooding out of Yeshua's side on the Cross.  Taylor didn't even mention the resurrection of the dead believers with tombs opening that happened at Calvary.  Overall, this book is interesting and a good beach read, but, if I were you, I'd go straight to the Gospels for a more accurate tale.  

Sunday, June 3, 2012

"Choose Joy Because Happiness Isn't Enough" by Kay Warren

When I first got this book, I was excited to learn about joy because--to be honest--I wasn't having that great of a week.  When I read the author bio on the back inside cover, I was very impressed to learn that Kay Warren co-founded a church and co-authored a systematic theology course.  It was a humbling moment to see her grand religious achievements that would make any Bible scholar blush.  However, when I got into the meat of the book, I must admit that I was a bit disappointed.  I'm not saying the book was bad because it wasn't.  It was a good book.  But that's it.  Just good--not great.  The few Bible verses quoted weren't making any huge theological connections to make me say "wow, I've never thought about joy like that before."  The Bible verses were fine, but Bible verses did not permeate this book as expected from such a professed theologian.  Also, I was surprised that the author quoted The Message as her choice of translation.  I'm not saying this is bad.  I'm just surprised is all.  While Warren's advice was good, the book overall is  not that Scripturally deep.  The main idea is that we must choose joy (wrapped up into 200+ pages).  You can read this book and even buy the DVD if you'd like.  However, read the Bible on your own and see how much Yah truly loves you.  This will give you real joy.  Quick fixes for joy don't work--whether they be personal relationships, purchases, or even self-help Christian books.  Go to the source--the fountain of living water that is Christ Yeshua.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"Wait No More" by Kelly and John Rosati

This book is excellent for those either thinking of adoption or just those that want to learn more about the process.  What I love about this book is that it is brutally honest.  Seeing the "Focus on the Family" logo posted on the book, one would think this book would just be some sugarcoated tale of fairy-tale adoption to make other Christians want to adopt children...because that's what "good" Christians are supposed to do.  However, this book has no such forceful demeanor and does not embellish details to make adoption seem like some Hollywood movie.  Kelly narrates the story as she shares the struggles of adopting.  She discusses financial issues, as well as coping with the side-effects present in children whose parents were abusive (either physically, emotionally, mentally, or just in the sense that they took drugs before, during, or after pregnancy).  Sprinkled throughout the book, Kelly mentions how this is what God wanted her family to do.  She says that she knows adoption is not for everyone but that everyone should support adopting families without judging them.  I could go on and on about this book.  The writing flows very well, and it is a clear picture of the struggles of adoption.  What makes this book different is that the author is a lobbyist.  With her knowledge of law, she clearly discusses issues of adoption that other families may not have been able to convey.  Great book.  There is even an insert with family photos in the middle of the book.      

Sunday, May 13, 2012

"Heaven is Now" by Andrew Farley

My feelings about this book are mixed.  1 Thes 5:21.  There are some excellent aspects of this book.  However, there are other parts that are quite questionable.  I liked how the author spoke about being new in Christ and living in the freedom of grace.  I like he spoke about Christ's sacrifice being a once-and-for-all-time deal.  The parts that I did not like were small things here and there.  Speaking about how a will comes into affect after someone dies was fine.  However, I did not like how much hand-waving Farley did with some verses.  Some things Yeshua said were dismissed as "not counting"  because they were said when Yeshua was alive and that the New Covenant didn't start until Yeshua died.  This is dangerous territory when we start putting down the Words of Yah.  Also, some verses were said to "not count" due to context.  For the notion of us confessing our sins in 1 John, Farley insists this is for unbelievers because with Christ, there is no more forgiveness necessary.  While Christ's sacrifice is done, I do think it is fine to say "I'm sorry" to Yah when we mess up.  However, if Farley wants to presume that certain verses aren't for us due to "context," we might as well say that the Great Commission was only for the apostles Yeshua was speaking to at that moment in time.  Additionally, while we are dead to the law, I do not like how the author says we do not need to keep the law.  Must we revisit John 14:15 and Luke 6:46?  When the author claims Sabbaths aren't necessary, I am appalled.  The author claims that the only "law" we need to fulfill is the law of love.  He even goes so far as to say that Jer 31:33 talks about the law of love and not the OT being written on our hearts.  Talk abut turning the words of the living God upside down!  Jer 23:36.  The author says we should not "sin" and that "sin" can control us if we let "it," but he does not talk much about what constitutes sin.  If one seeks to follow just the law of "love," are we to say homosexuality is okay?  Questions like these can arise when Farley speaks the way he does.  Also annoying is when Farley says we won't be rewarded in heaven.  He says we won't have stones with our name on them.  However, Revelation 2 says we will.  For the lukewarm Christian, this book will be very encouraging.  However, for the seasoned believer, this book is an excellent tool for discernment and 1 Thes 5:21.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

"Heroes and Monsters" by Josh James Riebock

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While I know it's not good to judge a book by its cover, when I saw this book, I immediately wanted to read it.  The pictures were okay, but they weren't the main selling points for why I wanted to read this book (I am not very fond of snakes).  What really got my interest piqued was the subtitle beneath the "Heroes and Monsters" line that read "An Honest Look at the Struggle Within All of Us."  As a book reviewer that specializes in Christian literature, I've had my fill of self-help books, devotionals, and theology books.  Don't get me wrong; those are wonderful books.  However, I rarely get a book that is published by a Christian publisher that is a literary story.  Sure, you've got your Amish romances every now and then (to roll one's eyes or not to roll one's eyes, that is the question) and books like that.  Yet, rarely is there a well-crafted story with imagery and symbolism...and the protagonist / author being a guy.  This story follows a young man's journey through life.  We read of his tough family situation, his broken relationships, his marriage, his jobs, and so much more.  To sum up what happens in the book with a "plot summary" would bludgeon any attempt at a book review for this work.  There are sad situations, honest introspection, and fun drawings every now and then.  The parallel with Jesus as a man named Jack is quite clever.  However, I wish the author would have clearly spelled out the Gospel and Named the Name.  As a Christian reading a book from BakerBooks publishing, I can see the link to Jesus.  However, I can not guarantee others will.  Perhaps the biggest clues are words like "church" and "baptism" that may clue readers in.  People can say what they may.  At the end of the day, this book is a look inside the soul of a man.  I love how the author put his face on the back cover because he looks like a nice, normal young man.  It goes to show you that even the most clean-cut people are oftentimes dying in the inside.  Call Him Jack or call Him Jesus, we need the Savior.  HalleluYAH.      

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"Quick, Easy, and Delicious Meals for your Family" by Susie Martinez, Vanda Howell, & Bonnie Garcia

This cookbook is great for those new to cooking.  It gives helpful tips right from the get-to, with everything from organizing shopping trips to getting warehouse discounts to purchasing sale items to stocking up on cooking "staples."  Additionally, for those visual learners out there, there are pictures throughout the book that correlate to different types of meals.  The book has recipes for small appetizers, regular meals, desserts, and more.  What I like is that it differentiates between foods that need to be baked versus grilled.  There is even a pasta and crock-pot section, which mixes things up.  There are little to no diagrams of the actual food, and the book is in black and white.  However, this is good because, once you're done cooking, you don't feel bad for not making your food look as nice as some cookbook's...because there is no photo!  Also worth noting is that the book discusses nutritional information of each meal, which most cookbooks overlook.  Most amusing is the little catchphrase beneath each title / meal.  These meals are so easy they barely take up one to two pages apiece.  One recipe I particularly like is the apricot glazed salmon.  While there were a lot of ingredients, the steps were very easy and only took 45 minutes to make.  This is a great cookbook.

"Love Does" by Bob Goff

You know what?  I really liked this book.  It was a fun compilation of whimsical and fascinating stories by a man who is saved by the grace of Yeshua.  The way this man sees life and walks through it is remarkable.  From stories of proposals, purchases, children, slavery, prisons, guns, Disneyland, and other seemingly unconnected places, the overall theme of love prevails.  Goff is not incredibly theological and doesn't really even quote Scripture that much (he more often talks about what Yeshua did while not referencing specific verses).  I love (no pun intended) the theme of a love that goes out and actually does stuff.  At times, one could feel insignificant when compared to a man who goes around pursuing justice for children in Uganda--a man who frees child prisoners and sets up schools in poor places.  However, what I like best about this book is that Goff never comes off as ostentatious or a braggart.  Will we all be social activists who live their life like Goff?  Of course not.  But what one does learn from this book is that everyone can DO something, no matter how small; and that Yahweh loves us all the same.  It doesn't matter if someone DOES more than someone else.  What matters is that we all DO something.  Also, all proceeds of this book go to charity.  Since each chapter is a separate life story, one can leave this book for a while and come back to it later...not missing a beat.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

"I Blame Eve" by Susanna Foth Aughmon

This book focuses on the notion of how one of the curses associated with the Fall was women's desire to control. Aughmon combats the destructive ideas that women have to be perfect and have to have everything "under control." She also talks a bit about spiritual warfare (although not in blatant terms) about women believing lies of society that are only deceptions in the mud. The notion of not being satisfied in life, living in denial, being at "rock bottom," selfishness, depression, and more are discussed. Humorously, even the notion of a painful child-birthing process is discussed. The book is fairly spiritual but not very verse-heavy. While the writing is witty, I do not think it is as humorous as other reviews have remarked. Is it funny? Sure. Is it the funniest thing I've ever read? No. It has its serious moments, as well, that will really make women stop and look at themselves in the mirror, wondering what this monster is that they've become.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

"Angels are for Real" by Judith Macnutt

I was excited when I got this book. The topic of angels is fun. However, I knew I should stay on my toes when it comes to discernment because the topic of angels can be good or bad, depending on how it is presented. As the book started, it was fine and informative. Scripture was even quoted. However, as the book progressed, it got worse.

On page 35, we are told angels carry prayers to God. While they may have that capability (Rev 8:3), Yah is powerful enough and omnipotent to hear us when we pray to Him. He is our ONLY mediator (1 Tim 2:5); Christ is enough. On page 40, we are told that Michael the archangel will destroy Satan. Excuse me, I think it's Christ who destroys evil! On page 41, we are told Jesus means "God saves" in Hebrew. This is wrong. His Name means "Yah saves" or "Yahweh is Salvation." God is a general term (elohim in Hebrew) that can refer to any deity. On page 86, we are told that we need heaven's help (in the form of angels) to access Yah's love. Come on! This is balderdash. All we need is Christ. Also, there is a story of an "angel" helping women lift a huge marble stone that will later be used for a statue of Mary. We know from the Scriptures (read Deuteronomy) that Yah does not even like statues, let alone unnecessary attention given to others in the form of veneration.

Furthermore, Macnutt does not address how the Angel of Yahweh is Yahweh is physical form but rather assumes the "angel of the LORD" is some other angel. In one instance, Macnutt greviously implies that an angel calmed the storm that Scripture said Jesus calmed (as if Christ would need help!). This was most insulting. Macnutt also claims to have a great knowledge of angels and demons but is lacking in research. Towards the end of the book, Jude is quoted with how evil angels were thrown into chains of darkness. There is no theological exposition going to Gen 6:4 or any discussion of Nephilim with how the demonic come about.

Worst of all, and I mean WORST OF ALL, is how Macnutt talks of countless angels as beings of light that shine (even the stories from others in the book ditto this) but does not quote 2 Cor 11:14-15: But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve."

If anyone wants to learn more about angels and demons, check out and note "Who is the Angel of Yahweh?" and the categories "Angels," "Spiritual Warfare and the Demonic," and "Creation / Free Will."

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"When God Writes Your Love Story" by Eric and Leslie Ludy

A friend of mine who likes to pride herself in being a relationship guru would always tell me about this book called "When God Writes Your Love Story." So, when I got the opportunity to review the book--the expanded edition, nonetheless--I jumped at the opportunity. The book is almost 300 pages but read very quickly. The book is divided into sections, and each chapter has some Bible verses and discussion questions, with anecdotes and sappy stories thrown in every now and then. I will not spoil all the details of this book, but it will not surprise anybody that this book is about giving up the details of your love life to your Creator. This means waiting on His timing and staying pure for your future spouse. While sex is discussed, there are no graphic details, so I would even recommend this book to junior-high-schoolers if they so desire. I suppose I would have liked a different title that at least named the Christ. After all, who is God? Ask several religions, and you'll get several answers. What was interesting was that I read some reviews posted on Barnes and Nobles for this review. Most were overwhelmingly positive, but one was very negative and had a very low rating. Reading further due to my curiosity, I realized the reader gave a very low rating because the book was apparently all "fluff" and did not tell readers how to get to know Jesus better, but instead the book just said to get to know Jesus better and draw close to Him as you surrender your [love] life to Him. After careful consideration, I must say that is true. However, with the title and cover of this book, I can not say I was expecting any super deep theological or prophetic writing in the book. Still, after much thought, while this book is nice, I would say that people should get "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" instead if they are going to spend money on a Christian relationship book. Search my reviews for a review on this book.

Friday, March 30, 2012

"As One Devil To Another" by Richard Platt

When I first saw this book, the cover kind of put me off. However, upon reading the summary / synopsis, my interest was piqued. This was to be an adaptation of C.S. Lewis' "The Screwtape Letters." It was to be written in a similar fashion by one who is a biographer of Lewis himself and ought to have much knowledge about the deceased author's style. While the writing was a bit circumlocutious and roundabout, as most of Lewis' work tends to be (this is just due to the writing style in that error; people talked differently), I was hoping for a more modern writing style that is easier to comprehend than most of Lewis' former work. However, that aside, there were some interesting points about spiritual warfare--you know, with the whole notion of demons wanting to destroy humans' relationship with Christ and suck humans down to Hell. At times, the notion of how Yahweh operates (called "the Adversary") and several theological points are made. While I could tell these were just shoved in to teach the reader some "good stuff" with the demonic aside, I must say it was slid in in a conspicuous manner that at least makes me appreciate the effort. There were parts where the topic of homosexuality and transubstantiation came up, with questionable remarks on the subject. What I did not like at all was the end. The "client" whom the demons are trying to trick / tempt / deceive eventually comes to Christ and learns Grace...from her dead aunt whom she communicates with. Necromancy is forbidden in the Bible (Lev 20:27, 19:31, Is 8:18, etc). We are not to communicate with spirits of the dead, and we do surely NOT achieve Grace thru departed spirits. We come to know the Grace of Yahweh from Yah Himself.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Spirit Wars" by Kris Vallotton

This is an excellent book, if I must say so myself. I find there are not many books written on the topic of spiritual warfare. Or, the few out there discuss the demonic as emotions instead of real entities. In this book, the author shares personal experiences of his own spiritual warfare and spiritual warfare in the lives of others. What was remarkable was the notion that fear is a spirit that can be cast out. I knew demons could be cast out, but I never thought of casting out spirits. That was new. I will not lie, some of Vallotton's stories of exorcism are a bit out there, but that does not discredit him. I feel as though there is spiritual warfare happening all over, but it is just that not many people are comfortable talking about it. What I also enjoyed was how Scripture was quoted and dissected when appropriate to really learn spiritual warfare. Also, there were word studies of the original words, which I liked. Overall, this book flows well and will teach Christians about a topic that is rarely discussed in church. While this book is by no means a final resource (it does not go into how angels fell, where the demonic come in, Rephaim, Nephilim, etc), it is a good stepping stone for those interested in spiritual warfare. I liked how the author noted how evil is out to get everyone and is an "equal opportunity" enemy.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

"Real Marriage" by Grace and Mark Driscoll

This book has some pros and cons. For instance, I love how it speaks about how real marriages start as genuine friendships. It goes into love and respect a bit, too, which is nice. I like the phrase "boys who can shave" when the authors speak of males who refuse to "man-up." The book also dives into the dangers of pornography, the inherent badness of abuse / how to deal with it to heal, and how spouses ought to be selfless servants. What I did not particularly like was how the authors took select verses from Song of Songs to insinuate that certain sexual acts (I dare not even repeat) are Biblically lawful. It's one thing to think that certain phrases have a particular allegorical counterpart. However, if that is not backed up in some other part of the Bible, I do not think we ought to say "well ---- is symbolic of ----, so it's okay to do ------." I'm sure the authors had good intentions, but this book was just plain perverted in certain areas of the text. Yikes.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

"Healing Your Church Hurt" by Stephen Mansfield

This book was a very interesting read. With all of the Christian books I review, I can't say I've come across many that broach this topic. This is a real issue in Christianity. It is one that I have personally experienced. The author, who has faced his fair share of church hurt, shares some of his story. However, he keeps things generally vague and goes into more detail for helping the reader. So, this book is not just him telling his awful story. This is for those that need healing. What I liked about this book was that the author started out recalling horrific things that happened to lead pastors and theologians in the early church (think Reformation era). He also writes about how suffering may be preordained as a means for making us more Christlike. He writes about how we should listen to others' criticisms and change what we need to but not take everything they say to heart--we are first and foremost identified by who Yeshua says we are, not who others say we are. The author also writes that anger and unforgiveness and lead to sin and even demonic activity. He goes into word studies quite often and has an impeccable writing style, both of which I enjoyed. What I will say I would have liked in this book that was missing was if the author wrote more about the spirit of the antichrist or how some may not be "good shepherds." However, one could argue that one would come to this conclusion from reading between the lines. Overall, this is a very good book. It helped me deal with a lot of my issues. We don't have to go back to churches that hurt us, but we ought to forgive from our heart and move on with our lives. Phil 3:13-14

Sunday, January 22, 2012

"The Jerk Magnet" by Melody Carlson

This book was a good and fast read, as Carlson's books tend to be. However, while there were some good lessons learned along the way, I have to say I was a bit disappointed. To back it up a bit, the book is about a shy wallflower who gets a makeover. Then, boys start paying attention to her--the wrong type of guys. Hence the title. There are parts in the book where the protagonist wears a bikini / other clothes that "show off her curves." At the end of the book--surprise, surprise--she states that she is happy how God made her. However, what little epiphanies there are are very subtle and short. Coloring and straightening hair, as well as wearing makeup are portrayed as fine things for girls to do. Also, there are scenes with church youth groups. I must say, Carlson did a fine job of showing girls that even "religious" guys can just be jerks, or "wolves in sheep's clothing" as Jesus would put it. Still, the connection to God is so minute and subtle. The protagonist commits her life to God with one of those little "come into my hear" prayers. No Scripture is quoted, and no in-depth spirituality is reached. The book doesn't even imply that the girl got a Bible to start reading. All in all, I'd say this book is a nice read, but I would be hesitant to go so far as calling it "Christian literature." The Christian veneer is there, but this is more of a beach read and not something girls want to read to identify truly with self-esteem issues or spirituality.

Available January 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"The Canary List" by Sigmund Brouwer

Wowza. Brouwer has done it again. This guy is such a good author that I've gone out of my way to request his books on my own. I love his style of very short chapters that change perspective. The genre he shines in is called speculative fiction. You never know what is coming next. I'll dive into the gist of what the book is about and conclude with some criticisms.

First of all, I'll try my best to give you an idea of the plot without revealing too much. There are some major plot twists that got even me by surprise. So, there is a troubled girl who is tossed around the foster system. She is plagued by a terribly scary darkness. Thru a truly strange chain of events, her schoolteacher gets involved in a huge conspiracy that involves the Vatican. Older Vatican conspiracies are touched upon, as well as some futuristic yet believable science and hacking. Some parts of the book are slower than others, but, in general, it is a very fast-paced story. The question of the demonic comes up quite a bit. At the end of the book, the reader is left to themself to question whether or not the demonic is real. Is there really evil in the Church, or is the demonic just a cover-up to blame something on a third party and manipulate people thru fear? I personally believe in the Biblical existence of the demonic, but readers can think what they may. What is great is the reading list at the end of the book. It includes memoirs from Vatican exorcists for those that want to dig deeper.

As for criticisms, this is hard. For the spiritual sense, the Vatican and demons were discussed, so the spiritual world was encountered. However, the schoolteacher is not a believer. He says by the end of the book that he believes he may one day see his little daughter in heaven. (By the end, he believes in demons and by some logic, he thinks God must exist, too.) However, there is no notion of him beginning a personal relationship with Yeshua Messiah. Perhaps, this is left up to the reader's imagination. What is good about this book is that it goes to remind people that--regardless of whether or not one believes in the existence of demons--there are very real evil people that infiltrate the Church.

'The Search Committee" by Tim Owens

When I saw this book was an award winner for the Christian Writers' Guild, I was expecting to be severely impressed. However, I was not. Let me explain why. First of all, there are several character stories occurring simultaneously, and the literary techniques used are great. What was missing for me, though, was that wow factor. At several times in my reading, I was bored. So how did this book win an award? I think it comes down to audience. I am a young adult woman in school. Most of the characters were older (some senior citizens) going thru marriage problems and deaths of spouses/older family members. The closest characters I could relate to were two young men, and that was a stretch. Also, there was a sort of Southern nostalgia seeping thru the pages both thru visualization and colloquialism. I do think that older audiences--maybe men more so than women--will greatly prize this book. It is about a team of parishioners looking for a new pastor for their church. Some of the sermons included were great.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

"Small Space Organizing" by Kathryn Bechen

This is an excellent reference book for anyone who has a small space they need to freshen up. There are several chapters dedicated to very specific rooms, whether they be for entertaining, guests, newborns, working, or more. There are even lists of supplies one may find useful with websites / stores where one can pick up said merchandise. My favorite part is the interview section at the back of the book. Bechen interviews several people that live in small quarters and asks what they did to organize / decorate and how it all turned out. While this book is published by Revell, I saw no predominant Christian themes or references in the book. Anyone can enjoy this book. I would not recommend reading it straight thru since not every situation will apply to every reader. However, for looking up quick fixes for specific scenarios, this book is fantastic.

Available January 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group