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.