Wednesday, June 25, 2014

NIV Life Journey Bible - A Review


A Review

The “NIV Life Journey Bible” is neither a study Bible or a devotional Bible.  I would rather call it a “Self-Help Bible” - though I have never heard that term used before.  Written by the authors of the well-known Boundaries series, it continues to offer help, quotes, and insight to those seeking “spiritual, personal, relational, and life growth”.  

As I have over the last few months, I again explored this books notes on James - the current source of my preaching.  The authors include three half-page notes on James.  The first is a short statement on how James assists the Christian’s growth - including comments on the value of trials and the power of our words.  Second, the authors include additional comments on “The Power of Words” drawing from James 3:1-12.  Finally, the book examines “What Motivates Our Desires/” using James 4:1-3 as a starting point for this discussion.  James appears to be typical of kind of comments found throughout this Bible version.

I appreciated the fact that most of the material included in the notes appears to be new - neither borrowed from the authors previous work or from other writers contributions.  This means that the reader will not be rehashing content that he or she has previously read - the concepts may be the same, but the presentation will be new and directly related to the scriptures in which they are found.  Having said that, it would have been helpful to find a couple of “To Learn More” references to the topics being discussed.  A ⅓ to ½ page helpful reading can provide a small introduction to each topic.  The typical will need additional guidance - if they are working with a counselor, that guidance may be available, but the casual reader would benefit from additional reference material.

The book jacket indicates that there are 30 biographical sketches and 20 essays discussing principles of spiritual growth - sadly, I cannot find a listing of these in either the Table of Contents or as part of an Index, making them less accessible than might be hoped.  

The book ends with a number of “Study Helps”:

  1. Table of Weights and Measures
  2. Reading Plans
    • A Tour of the Bible
    • 30 Days for New Christians
    • 30 Days With Jesus
    • 30 Days in the Psalms
  3. Subject Index
  4. Where to Find It Index

The book concludes with 9 blank, though lined, pages for personal notes.  

The NIV Life Journey Bible would be a help to anyone who is struggling with life’s issues.  It would make a great gift for a new believer just starting to discover the faith or for an established Christian seeking new refreshment on the journey.

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.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Six Million Accusers - A Review

Six Million Accusers:


A very readable book telling the story of the discovery, capture, and trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1960-1962.  Written as a novel with bits of fiction, the book attempts to be faithful to the history of the events surrounding the historic capture of who has been called “the father of The Final Solution to the Jewish Problem.”  

The author includes a bibliography that the reader can reference to discover further details and a summary of the lives of those who were involved in very secret operation of capturing Eichmann in Argentina and bringing him to Israel for trial.  My biggest concern is that, as I read, it was impossible to tell where the boundary existed between fact and fiction.  It would have been helpful for the author to have included a running commentary, borrowing from primary and secondary sources, as footnotes which might have helped make that distinction for the reader unfamiliar with the topic.  

The book is written in the first person - primarily from the perspective of Haim (pronounced like “climb”), a member of the team assigned the responsibility of capturing Eichmann.  Occasionally the author assumes another member of the team’s voice or even that of a third person observer, though these times are few and far between and are used to fill in gaps in the story that could not be explained by Haim.  The book reads with the excitement of a Tom Clancy or Dan Brown novel except, unlike their work, it is based as much as possible on the historical events upon which it is based.  And as such, it held this reader’s attention from beginning to end.

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

Lost Legacy - A Review

A Review

Zoe Chambers is again caught up in a mystery that is not of her causing - but this time is seems to involve her father, uncles, mother, and stepfather.  It will take all she has to keep her focus on her job as an EMT and as her town’s Deputy Coroner.  And not be killed in the process.

The mystery starts in chapter one and continues through to the final page - at a pace that rarely stops.  The reader will follow Zoe Chamber’s exploits across Monongahela County in southeastern Pennsylvania.  New murders seem to follow poorly investigated cold cases - which threaten the lives of those still living.  It will take the talents of amatuer slueth, Zoe, and her semi-romantic interest, Vance Township Police Chief Pete Adams, as well as the understaffed, underfunded county crime lab to put the pieces together.

The perfect cozy mystery for anybody looking for a late summer, early fall read.  The rural setting of Monongahela County is the perfect mix of mild summer days, and wild heat filled storms.  It will soon become a place that the reader will want to visit for a day or two while traveling through the area.  I would just hope that you do not stumble on the scene of the next murder - which I will eagerly await to read.

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

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sharing Christ With The Dying - A Review

A Review

It was 40+ years ago that I was given the advice that unless someone came to Christ as a teen (or before) the odds of he or she doing so were practically nil.  Now as I approach retirement and having served as the part-time pastor/chaplain for a group of seniors at a senior apartment complex, I have learned the falsehood of the statement I heard so many years ago.  

But, I am not alone.  Melody Rossi in her book Sharing Christ With The Dying discusses that very truth.  All of us know someone who is dying - in fact, everyone is dying and needs to meet the Savior.  
This helpful book is as much a guide to ministering to those who are dying as it is a guide for those who are aging in their own right.  Having worked with this audience for over ten years and am now the target of this book, I found the book helpful, encouraging, and supportive.  The book not only provides guidance in sharing the gospel, but also in ministering with the elderly.  

The book is practical - not just theoretical or spiritual.  It discusses what to expect from the various services available to the elderly, suggestions for setting boundaries for the caregivers, and what to expect as you work with other just prior to and after death.

Scripture plays a major role in preparing the heart, of the dying or loved ones, for death.  Ms. Rossi has done an excellent job of integrating God’s word into her practical advice.  I am considering using some of those scriptures as the basis for a sermon series next fall.  In doing so, I and my congregation will be better prepared for our future.

Thank you Melody Rossi for contributing to my understanding of death and dying.

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

Sky Zone - A Review

A Review

Once again Creston Mapes has put together a thriller worth reading - both timely and exciting, the book held this readers attention for the few days it took to read.

The story, with the exception of a bit of backstory told as flashbacks, takes place in a the brief 18-24 hour news cycle of a modern major city newspaper.  Supported  by the likes of former Rock Star, and now well-known Christian concert performer, Everett Lester, Senator Martin Sterling was now running for President.   Both Everett and Sterling were scheduled to attend the evenings campaign even at the Columbus (OH) Festival Arena.

Part of the event's security detail included Jack Crittendon, former master reporter from the Trenton City Dispatch.  However, his last major story included details of how his employers had helped cover up the mis-doings of industrial giant Demler-Vargus Corporation, forcing the newspaper to close its doors.  Jack had lost his job and had been force to settle in as a part-time (though regular) security guard for the arena.  Now, with his wife eight months pregnant, he still hoped for the break which would allow him to return to his prefered career.

But  the evening did not go as expected.  Jack's wife and family made a last minute decision to attend, so had the 20 terrorists.  Though there was some warning of their arrival, details were unknown - and planning for the unknown is difficult.  And to make matters worse ... well to learn that one must read the book.

The book could not be put down - I was sorry that sleep was a required part of each night.  Those looking for a fast paced thrill ride, Sky Zone will be the perfect book to pick up this summer.  As with the other of Creston Mapes books, faith plays a role in the telling of the story, but only to the extent that it makes one aware of the role faith can play in the lives of believers, whether just discovering the mysteries of the faith or the long-time believer moving through life's daily trials.

I will look forward to the next book in this series - Jack now has his new job and his new son - exciting times for all.

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

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Deadly Assets - A Review

Deadly Assets

Wendy Tyson

A Review

I continue to enjoy reading the titles coming out of Henery Press.  Deadly Assets is no exception.  Though this title is not quite as “cozy” as others I have read, the book is still a top notch mystery that should delight most fans of the books coming out of this publisher.  

Allison Campbell is a self-described image consultant, what others might call a life coach.  However, as of yesterday, her two most recent clients have disappeared.  Coincidence?  Maybe - maybe not.  It would take Allison and her team of associates working together to come to the bottom of the mystery before one or both of the clients would not just be missing but also dead.

The book was fun to read, though it did seem to slow down as I reached the 60% point of the book.  This was balanced by details I learned about my home in Upstate NY and Southeast PA, as well a number of subjects of lesser interest to me.  I found Jason’s observation very helpful in restating a truth I learned some years ago as my wife and I (now together for 40 years) went through some times, “When you love someone, trust can feel an awful lot like letting go.”  It was true when I learned it - it is true now.

Was this the perfect cozy mystery - NO.  But it was worth my time reading it from beginning to end.  I suspect many other will find this to be true as well.  
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Systems View of Life - A Review

The Systems View of Life

Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi

A Review

Systems seemed to find a home whatever my career choice.  In the chemistry lab, in the church, in the family, and in computer science - each required an understanding of systems theory.  Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi’s The Systems View of Life is attempt to meld the concept of systems into the far ranging fields of physical science, biological science, social science, and religion.  The success with which this is done might depend on the reader’s interest and training, but the book makes for interesting reading regardless of the reader’s background.

Claiming to be an undergraduate textbook, Capra and Luisi’s text explores the history of scientific thinking from ancient times forward.  The authors attempt to move the student through the rolling attitudes that seem to bounce between a very mechanistic approach (i.e. the entire universe is a machine) and a holistic approach (i.e. the universe is more than its whole).

Recognizing that the philosophy of science seems to be a pendulum that moves between these to extremes, the book stresses that the 21st century is in the much more holistic than we have seen in the immediate past.  That being so, there is room in the current scientific landscape for a spiritual (not necessarily religious) perspective of our world.  The authors point out that there are fundamentalists that are both religious (e.g. Christian or Muslim) and scientific (e.g. Richard Dawkins) who attempt to exclude each other from valid scholarship.

Though coming from Cambridge University Press, the book is not a specifically Christian (or even religious) view of science or a scientific view of religion.  Rather, it is an attempt to allow members of each community to appreciate the contribution of the scientific community and the religious community toward a holistic world view.  The authors, early in the book, make it clear that they are writing for an undergraduate audience.  This might be true for an undergraduate class in the Philosophy of Science, but otherwise the book might not find a place in most undergraduate degree programs.  On the other hand, it would find a home in the seminary training for a modern pastor (at least for some) or the graduate science student looking beyond the typical laboratory setting.

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

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Deadly Business - A Review

A Review

Mia Quinn’s life was on the line - both literally and figuratively.  The defendant had a violent past and could turn mean at any minute.  And now she needed to decide to try the three teens accused of dropping a shopping cart from three stories onto Tamsin Merritt as juveniles or as adults - the former leading to the possibility of rehabilitation, the latter to a lifetime of harsh treatment behind prison bars.  Her decision might effect the re-election of her boss and, ultimately, the security of her job.

More critical to the life of Mia’s family and life were the events that led to her husband’s death - or was it murder - a few months earlier.  It began as a hunch - one that the county prosecutors did not want to follow - but the deeper Mia and her friends looked at the events surrounding the accident that evening it became clear that there was more to the story.  It would not all be pretty, but it had to be told.  

These three events are the framework upon which Lis Wiehl builds her latest legal drama.  Having spent much of her career working for the prosecutor’s office, the book has a sense of realism often lacking in more amature attempts at writing within the genre.  Over the last couple of years, I have looked forward to each new addition to my library from this author.  I continue to do so.  

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