Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Evidence That Demands A Verdict - A Review

Evidence That Demands A Verdict.cover.jpg

A Review

Let me begin with a bit of truth in advertising. I was an invited member of the original Launch Team for the newest version of “Evidence That Demands A Verdict”. In return for being a part of the Launch Team, I received an e-book version of ‘Evidence” and a tee-shirt promoting the book. However, the e-book was flawed. By design, the pre-publication version that we were sent included a large watermark in the middle of each page, making it very difficult to read (at least for this reader). In spite of being a part of the Launch Team, I decided it would be unfair to review a book I could not fairly read.  Two months later I found (using my normal review book resources) an opportunity to receive and review a hard copy of the book. This review is based on both the original “Launch Team” version which I received last June and the hard copy I received earlier this month.


I remember receiving the original version of “Evidence” as a junior or senior in college. I devoured it. As a new believer, I wanted to know and understand as much as possible about this faith to which I belonged. Later, after graduating from seminary, I discovered a new version and purchased it. I remember trying to become as excited about it as I had the original - it was not to be. I do not if it was further education, my personal faith journey (which took an unneeded bounce during those years), the fact that I had changed the immediate direction of my career (from pastoral ministry to Computer Science college professor), or the book itself which caused the loss of interest; but I had lost interest.

The year is now 2017 and the third (or is fourth?) edition of this classic book is being published. The newest version is not one I would not want to sit down and devour (though I know there are some readers who have done that), but I would not want to miss having the newest edition on my shelf. Rather being aimed for the newly converted college student, this new book is aimed for the college or seminary classroom or for the desk and shelf of the pastor or scholar. For many, not sitting in a classroom, it will become a reference book, rather than late night reading. But it is a reference book that many (or most) believers will want on their shelves.

At just under 800 pages, the book addressed most of the issues attacked by modern critics of the Christian faith. Whether it be philosophy, religions, history, or science (plus more) the reader will be challenged to examine evidence for the Christian faith. Whether a believer, skeptic, or atheist, the critical reader will need to respond to the author’s arguments. The book is thoroughly referenced with in-text notes and a Bibliography providing complete details of each resource quoted or used in the book. The only missing element, for most students of the scripture, is a set of sources allowing followup to the many topics discussed in the book. It will become the responsibility of the pastor, the teacher, or the individual reader to provide access to additional resources on topics of interest.  It is this missing element that prevents this reviewer from giving the book a 5-star review.

The book is not general reading - it is aimed at the scholar. Few (are there any?) diagrams can be found within the covers, though charts are present as needed which will help the reader to process the evidence presented.
This review is based on free paper and electronic copies provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Mathematics the Truth

Mathematics the Truth

Mathematics The Truth cover.jpg

Malcolm Cameron

A Review
An interesting book that begins with an error on its cover makes this reader doubt the usefulness of the book. First of all, the error - the author’s name, as best I can tell, is spelled wrong. Now, this does not define the entire book, but does make one want to read it carefully.

I did find the book of interest. It is written to a beginning master’s level mathematician. It might be handled by a well-equipped calculus student with a bit of exposure to differential equations, ultimately the focus seems to be helping the student jumping into his final years of training to see the parallels between mathematics and the physical world. The author firmly that this connection to the physical world should become the real motivation for studying mathematics:

Currently mathematics is taught like Latin, without motivation, restricted to the period from Euclid in the BC to the Renaissance. Those few proceeding to university mathematics and mathematical physics are re-educated without the benefit of previous orientation while the rest are abandoned to popularisations. This is not right …

The author attempts to weave mathematics with these physical concepts that either underlay or that are supported by the mathematical truths. The book, obviously, does not a cover entire field of math or physics, but enough parallels are drawn to aid the student or teacher to take these initial thoughts further.

I do wish the book included a bit more documentation, allowing the student to continue his or own self-study of the topics presented. Too much material is presented as “common knowledge” that might be so to the fully trained mathematician, but not to the student making progress through the field. That being said, the book is readable - provided the student has a basic understanding of the mathematics. However, once the reader reaches the point where his mathematics training has progressed, a set of good math texts will be needed to fill in some of the gaps.

Physicists and mathematicians would do well to find ways to add this book to their courses as a supplementary text. Those already in the field will find the book to be of help understanding the contribution each has made to their respective fields.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.

Crisis Shot - A Review

Crisis Shot

Crisis Shot Cover.jpg

Janice Cantore

A Review

Tess O’Rourke had shot a 14-year-old boy. The review board had cleared her, but the community was not so sure. When the opportunity came to move from Long Beach, CA, to Rogue’s Hollow, OR, with some trepidation, she took it. It was a promotion in name (from Detective to Chief), if not in pay.  She was leary of the job; alas, there were those in the community who were leary of her. But it was her new job and she was determined to do it to the best of her ability.

There were those on the force who wondered if she was ready for the change from big city cop to the small town Rogue’s Hollow. The City Council vote was a narrow victory. But the bigger problem was the increase in vandalism and murders (this was brand new) to hit the community with her arrival. Mayor Dixon had started supporting her, now he was not so sure. There were members of the force that had started questioning her, but gained confidence in her ability to lead as she tackled the problems that kept presenting themselves during those first days on her new beat. Pastor Oliver never seemed to doubt her ability - but his wife had been tossed into the river and left to die. Tilly was a drug addict and she did not know who to trust. She knew something, but could she be trusted to remember it and to tell the truth. And then Steve Logan, a county sheriff, was upping the anty for Tess.

Janice Cantore has written an interesting story that covers the lives of people living in two states. It will easily hold the attention of the lover of police procedurals and of cozy mysteries. Weaving in a hint of romance and a longing for faith, the story is a great first book in a new series from an accomplished author. I will be looking forward to the next book in this series.
This review is based on a free copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

KJV Know the Word Study Bible - A Review


A Review

This book represents a Study Bible that does not seem to know what it wants to communicate. Providing three tracks for study (Book by Book, Verse by Verse, and Topic by Topic), it never seems to really accomplish any of these with any sort of consistent vision. Tools are provided for each track, but none of them provide the depth this review would expect from a really good Study Bible. I would have preferred to have the editors pursue one of these tracks with more depth and consistency.  

Let me use the Topic-by-Topic track as an example. The Bible tackles 21 different topics (only 21? - for a true Study Bible, this seems weak) providing five notes on each topic. There are three exceptions. The discussion on “God the Son” provides seven notes, the discussions on “Sanctification” and “God’s Will” each provide six notes each. The notes are laid out in such a way that the reader can follow the “trail” forward to the next note, but without any reference to the previous note or the beginning of the thread, he or she is forced to refer to the index in order to follow the topic from beginning to end. Each note provides a look at one verse dealing with the topic, allowing the reader little room to more deeply explore the given topic. Cross references are either from the translators of the NKJV or from the verse by verse study notes - nothing specifically designed to help with further topical studies.  

Sadly, the indexing is minimal. The topic index, mentioned earlier, is designed to point the reader to the five, six, or seven, notes on each of the 21 topics. There are no indexes focusing on the Book by Book studies or the Verse by Verse studies. The appendices consist of tables of “Monies, Weights, and Measures,” a typical Bible Concordance, and a typical set of Bible Maps. None of these appear to be designed specifically to augment this Study Bible.

This Bible would serve as a great gift for a new believer, or for the high school graduate beginning their own study of scripture. The notes that are provided, are useful, but not sufficient for deeper study. Thus, this Bible would be of lesser value to the seminary student or pastor with access to other tools, Bibles, and resources, to supplement his or her study.
This review is based on a free copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Ax To Grind - A Review


A Review

Kenni Lowey, the sheriff, Finn, her deputy, and Duke (her dog), were determined to find out who was killing the assistants to Beryle Stone, the most famous resident of Cottonwood, KY. The tell-all that Ms. Stone was rumored to have written was not supposed to be a mystery, but it became one for the people of Cottonwood, KY.

Kenni had one other “deputy”, one she could not openly discuss, one which only she and Duke could see - Poppa, the ghost of her granddad or father (the story never quite made that clear). He would occasionally gather clues or check out possible situations before Kenni could walk into a trap. Poppa also brought a bit of humor into the story.

Overall, the story was interesting and held this reader’s interest. It was only as the story came to an end that it became a  bit difficult to separate the good guys and gals from the bad.
This was not the world’s best cozy mystery, but it played the part well, none-the-less. I was glad that I was able to read it and will look for more from the author in the series.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Holy Bible Christian Standard Bible: Reader’s Bible - A Review

Holy Bible
Christian Standard Bible
Reader’s Bible

A Review

This volume is one of the simplest Bibles I have seen. It is simply the text of scripture. The beginning of each book is clearly marked; however, chapters are not numbered, but are noted with the use of a blue-highlighted letter of the first word of every chapter. This is true even when it would make sense to do so (i.e. the Psalms). Verses are not delimited in any way. No footnotes are included, not even translator’s notes. The reader will need to obtain a traditional edition of the CSB for these details. Margins are not extremely large, leaving little room for notes - this is probably my major complaint with the text.

This leaves the reader feeling as if a great deal is omitted. Yet, it allows the reader to tackle the Bible much more like the original readers did. I say “much more”, because, though chapter divisions are present, they are not marked - and no verse breaks exist. The text is clean and crisp against a white background. Reading is easy - not hampered with extra marks, superscripts, subscripts, or footnotes.  It is the kind of text I would like to have handy for a first read of scripture - details can be filled in with other Study Bibles, commentaries, dictionaries, etc.
This review is based on a free copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.

Friday, September 15, 2017

All Saints - A Review

A Review

If you have seen the movie, you will want to read the book to get the rest of the story. If you have not seen the movie, you will want to read the book to get the whole story.

The movie was a moving experience, but the book provides so much more detail that the reader quickly realizes that the story is much more important than that found on the big screen. Rev. Michael Spurlock is appointed to a dead end church in Smyrna, TN. The church had gone through a very difficult church split and had a mortgage that far exceeded the remaining congregation's ability to care for themselves. The decision had been made by the local church and the denominational representatives to sell the property and move to a smaller location that could be had for the cost of rent while they began the rebuilding of the church.

God had other ideas.

Into their midst walked a small group of refugees - sent to check out the local Episcopal Church. On the surface, it would appear that the refugees would bring more drain on the resources of the church than they could possibly add. But, to quote myself, "God had other ideas."

What happened was the transformation of lives - both the American church members who stayed with the church and the Karenese refugees that joined them in worship. But the transformed lives did not stop there - it would include, over time, members of the Smyrna community, both its general population and its officials (police, government, etc.). Pastor Spurlock, the church, and the Karen would need to learn to trust God if the church was going to survive.  Throughout the story we see unexpected answers to prayer - from the heavens, in the form of needed rain; people, who brought skills at the right time; and equipment, like the "1000 gallon water tank with a pump mounted on a trailer."  

The story introduces us to the pain that the church felt when Rev. Spurlock chose after four years to take a position in New York, but the reader also celebrates with the church as they realized that God had sent the next pastor that they needed on their spiritual journey.

At one level, All Saints is the story of a church. But it is also the story of changed lives - lives unexpectedly touched by the Grace of God.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

5-Minute Bible - A Review

5-Minute Bible
100 Stories and 100 Song

5-Minute Bible Cover.jpg

Stephen Elkins

A Review

A children’s Bible story book that is nicely conceived, but poorly executed. Stephen Elkins is known for producing colorful and entertaining books for children - he has attempted to add a bit of his creative genius to his newest work.

Each of the 100 two page stories consists of four parts. The first three parts are attractive and well-done. The colorful artwork will hold the reader’s attention and be inviting for parents to share with their children. The Bible stories themselves are written to be understood by the preschool child and read by the first and second grader. The colorful artwork will draw the child's (and parent?) attention to the story. Accompanying each story is a brief 10-20 word lesson summary of what the child might remember from the story. Also accompanying each story is a short children’s song.

And that is where this reviewer finds fault with the book. Some of the songs are well-known, such “The B-I-B-L-E, Yes That’s The Book For Me.” Others are lyrics are set to familiar hymns - except that, for this non-musician, it was often difficult to force the provided lyrics to fit the suggested tune. Finally, there are unfamiliar songs for which there is no suggested tune - suggesting that the songs should be familiar, even though they are not. All of these concerns could be address by including a CD (or 2) with the music for parents and children to sing along with. Similarly, a set of MP3 files could be made available on the book’s web page.

Which leads to this reviewer’s final concern - the web page given in the book’s introduction leads to a page saying that some page (not the book’s page) is under development. Yes, this new page is under development, but there is no indication that it is related to this book and, in fact, has no content at all. According to the book introduction, the page will present the full lyrics (alas, no music) for all the songs in the book; but not even the lyrics are present. (Note this review is being written one week after the publication date, and these problems could be addressed in the near future).
This review is based on a free copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Convicted - A Review

A Review

There are three kinds of books about grace:

The first are those that examine the topic Biblically or Theologically. My favorite book in this category, because it had a major impact on my life shortly after it was released, was Chuck Swindoll’s The Grace Awakening. The problem with these books is that the reader is left wondering, “Is this the way it really happens?”

The second kind of book that can teach us about grace are those fictional titles that weave grace into the story of the characters. A recently reviewed book that picks up this themes is Candace Calvert’s Maybe Its You.  But the reader is easily reminded that, “Yeah, this is fiction.”

The third category are those books which illustrate God’s grace lived out in the lives of real people with real problems dealing with real life on the streets where they live. Convicted is just that.

Jameel McGee is a young black man found at the wrong place at the wrong time. He is arrested by Andrew Collins is a police officer on the fast track - that knows what is best for his community and will do anything (even if it is dirty) to clean up the community.

The truth comes out as it is discovered that Andrew is stashing drugs in his locker to use against criminals for whom the cases were not quite as obvious as he wanted. Jameel would go to a state prison in Michigan for a crime he did not commit; Andrew would go to a federal prison for defrauding the justice system with false evidence.

Both Jameel and Andrew would need to learn of God’s grace - toward themselves and toward others (including each other). It was not easy for Jameel to let go of the anger he felt for Andrews lies and behaviors that left him serving four years of a ten-year sentence. It was a lesson he would need to relearn multiple times in the years ahead.  It was not easy for Andrew to learn that God could allow someone to forgive him for the damage done. It was a lesson he would need to hear multiple times in the years ahead. But they did learn about grace - and this is their story.

The story is told completely in the first person, flowing back and forth between Jameel’s and Andrew’s voice. We are presented with the emotions that each experienced as they moved through their story. We also see the hand of God working in their lives - they could not always see it in real time, but only became aware of it as it unfurled in the days, months, and years, ahead of them.

In these 200+ pages, we see how God’s grace can change the lives of two men that, at one time or another, wanted to destroy the lives of the other. We see the lives of two men who learned to work together and to love each other.
This review is based on a free copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

NKJV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible - A Review

A Review

At almost 2500 pages, this is one of the largest Study Bibles I have encountered; but that is okay, it is also one of the best.

With copious notes for both the Old Testament and the New Testament, the comments focus on both background material (as the title suggests) but also material suited for more typical Study Bibles. My current preaching series centers around the book of Philippians 3. Here is an example of the kind of material found in this commentary (clipped from Amazon.com):

The text is full of illustrative material that would bring the scriptures to life for the congregation of the person studying Bible for themselves. Along with the many notes, are a series of over 300 essays on Biblical history and archeology. The full-color images, cross-references, a concordance, and indexes to the essays add additional value to this Bible edition.

For the church looking for an attractive gift for their pastor during “Pastor’s Appreciation Month” (October), this would make a nice addition to the pastor’s gift. Similarly, this Bible would make a wonderful gift for a pastoral student - whether in a college, seminary, or non-traditional program.  This would also serve as a nice addition to a lay person’s or  church library.
This review is based on a free copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Apologetics Study Bible: Christian Standard Bible - A Review

Apologetics Study Bible CSB.jpg

A Review

Holman Bible Publishers has combined one of my favorite Study Bibles with what is becoming a favorite preaching Bible. The result is a tool that I will be keeping on my shelf for years to come.

Over the last few months, I have begun to appreciate the Christian Standard Bible (CSB), beginning with a couple of reviews published in February and March of 2017. It is quickly becoming my favorite pulpit Bible. I am becoming increasingly excited as Study Bibles are becoming available based around the CSB. The Apologetics Study Bible is the third such Study Bible to cross my desk.

The Bible text used in this edition is the newer Christian Standard Bible. But the changes do not stop there. Notes have been updated in this newer edition. As one example, the notes of the original HCSB Apologetics Bible for Colossians 2:8 are as follows:

2:8 The term “philosophy” occurs only here in the Bible. Paul was not making a blanket denunciation of philosophical study or even Greek philosophy (e.g., Platonism, Stoicism). Nor was he worried that the Colossians’ faith would crumble if they subjected it to critical inquiry. The article (“the”) appearing before the term in the Greek text suggests that the opponents had characterized their own teaching as a “philosophy”—the specific teaching Paul opposed.

The newer CSB version rewords this slightly and adds a bit more content:

2:8 The term “philosophy” occurs only here in the Bible. Paul was not making a blanket denunciation of philosophical study or even Greek philosophy like Platonism, Stoicism. Nor was he worried that the Colossians’ faith would crumble if they subjected it to critical inquiry. The article (“the”) appearing before the term in the Greek text suggests that the opponents had characterized their own teaching as a “philosophy”—the specific teaching Paul opposed.

“Elements of the world” (stoicheia) suggests supernatural agencies or spiritual beings.

Knowing that the text was not merely imported from the previous edition into the newer edition is a helpful observation. It means the editors were not only thinking about the Bible text, but also about the  contents of the notes.

Note - this review is specifically for the hard copy of the CSB Apologetics Study Bible. Kindle versions are flawed in that they do not provide access to the main Apologetics Study Notes - this is true for both the HCSB and CSB versions and for the separate, though related, student versions. LOGOS versions of the original HCSB Apologetics Study Bible does not have this flaw. CSB versions of both the Apologetics Study Bible and the Student versions are in the queue for possible development - given sufficient pre-orders.

Is it worth purchasing the CSB Apologetics Study Bible - only if you want the most up-to-date details and notes. I have not checked every note, so I cannot verify that there are no critical updates to the notes - the buyer may want to check important verses, chapters, or books, for changes.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Seeds of Revenge - A Review

Seeds of Revenge

Seeds of Revenge cover.jpg

Wendy Tyson

A Review

Megan Sawyer and her friends from the small town of Winsome, PA, are in the middle of another series of murders, a series which could easily tear the town apart. Megan owns a small organic farm on the outskirts of town and also runs a small cafe and store in town in which she markets some of her products. The cafe has quickly become the hub of town gossip - if you want to hear the latest news (true or false) visit the cafe. Winsome was also a place that was inviting to family reunions - and this one was turning deadly.

The disliked patriarch of the family was the first to die - but others would follow. Then other members of the community started to be threatened as well. The police chief was young and was learning his role in murder investigations very quickly. This was not his first case (see Wendy Tyson’s earlier novels in this series for those details), but it was becoming his trickiest to solve. With so many misleading clues and possibilities, naming the wrong suspect could lead to more deaths.

A bit harsher than some cozy mysteries, but still a satisfying read. Set in rural Pennsylvania, the place almost feels like home (without the murders, of course): warm fireplaces, ice covered roads, small town life. A walk along the frozen canal might be just the way to finish day’s work. The town, the plot, and the characters will welcome all readers to again visit Winsome, Pennsylvania.  
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.