Wednesday, January 28, 2015

God’s Story in 66 Verses - A Review

A Review

I was concerned when I first saw the title of this book.  God provided 66 books in the Bible - how could anyone fairly reduce each book to a single verse?  Obviously, one cannot.

However, unlike the title suggests, the Stan Guthrie does not do so.  Rather than providing a commentary on 66 verses, he provides a rather complete introduction to each of the 66 book beginning with what most of us would call the key verse.  

As is my usual practice with such books, rather than reading the entire book, I spend time exploring those books I am currently studying.  This week that involves the book of Galatians in the NT (from which I am preaching) and the book of Joel in the OT (the subject of a small group Bible Study I am part of).  In each case the author has created an accurate introduction to the texts, using not just the key text but several key texts found throughout the book being studied. I found the book easy to read and follow - even though it has a degree of depth I might not expect from such an introduction.  Though written for a more scholarly audience, the content and overview provided is similar to that provided by Henrietta Mears in her classic, What the Bible is All About.  The content could also serve as an the book introduction similar to that found at the beginning of most Study Bibles, but with a bit more depth.

The book could be a good Bible introduction for anyone seeking to read the Bible through in a year or two.  It could also serve as the starting point for a sermon series moving a congregation through the entire Bible - a dream of mine, but unlikely to occur given my current congregation. content is too brief to serve as a Bible Introduction text in a College or Seminary course, but might serve that purpose well in a Sunday School or small group Bible Study.   

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, January 26, 2015

Feasting on the Word Lenten Companion - A Review

Feasting on the Word
Lenten Companion

A well-designed book to move the liturgical pastor through the Lenten season.  The book includes complete service and extended commentaries for each Sunday of Lent.  Also provided are complete mid-week services - including prepared homilies.  

Like other books in the series, the extended commentaries approaches each text from  four perspectives:

  1. A Theological Perspective
  2. A Pastoral Perspective
  3. An Exegetical Perspective
  4. An Homiletical Perspective

These overviews provides the pastor a number of ideas and concepts from which to build his or her sermon.  

Along with the commentaries designed to help the pastor prepare a sermon, each entry includes a Children’s Sermon, designed for use with a younger audience, hymnal suggestions (using multiple sources), responsive and unison readings for each week’s service.    

These are all positive elements included in the book.  However, there are two concerns:

  1. The book is designed for one time use.  I would like to think the publisher might consider publishing updated or new editions each year in preparation for Lent.
  2. The Kindle version of the book was more difficult to use than than the PDF (with DRM) version designed for use with Adobe Digital Editions. The Kindle version seems to have lost some of the formatting and details that made the book useful to the pastor preparing for Sunday’s service.  To be honest, I came close to not reviewing this book after seeing the Kindle edition.  I changed my mind only after seeing the PDF presentation.  I expect a printed copy of the book would more closely duplicate the PDF version - and be extremely useful.

For the pastor looking for  a comprehensive Lenten program this would be a wonderful tool.  Another way this book would fit into the life of the church would be if a pastor were part of a pulpit exchange for the Lenten season.  Such was the case, early in my pastoral career.  Assigning each pastor in the rotation one of weeks (either for the midweek service or for the Sunday service), a unique theme could be maintained even with multiple speakers.  

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.

With Vics You Get Eggroll - A Review

A Review

A cozy mystery starring Madison Night, Lt. Tex Allen (of the Lakewood Police Department), and handyman Hudson James.  I found the mystery well-written as out of town women are being kidnapped and killed - but the connection to Mad to Mod, Madison Night’s remodelling store, seemed less direct than in previous stories.  

Madison, as in her previous books, is still attracted to the two men that seem to be around much of the time.  Lt. Allen is a suspect in the current case and Hudson James has returned from an extended vacation - Madison will need to make some decisions soon as to which relationship she will develop, if she can keep herself committed and alive long enough to develop any relationships at all.  The romance is more closely tied to the level of the Hallmark Channel Movies than to Lifetime Movies - but the reader will need a soft enough heart to appreciate that romance if the book is going to remain of interest.

It is unclear, to this reader, whether the series is coming to a close of whether more books are to follow in the life of this amateur sleuth.  I, for one, hope that there will be more.  It would feel like saying goodbye to a favorite television series if the author chooses to end our look at the life Madison Night with this book - it always ends too soon.  

For the reader looking for a cozy mystery for two or three spring evenings, this book may be the perfect fit.

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.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Six Million Dollar Man: Season Six - A Review

Juan Antonio Ramirez

A Review

Ramirez’s graphic novel brings reminders of the mid-70s television series of the same name.  A well-done followup, that weaves several stories in this collection of individual issues into a single book.  I sensed that I was truely again following the adventures of Steve Austin as he worked for the OSI - even as its funding is disappearing.  It was well-worth my time reading the latest installment of The Six Million Dollar Man.

My only concern is that I do not like a compilation of individual issues ending with a “To Be Continued”.  Though I know it is not unusual, but I expect the resulting novel to be the complete story - that is not the case here.  I will need to wait for the next volume (if there is one) of the series to find the end of the story.  Perhaps it is a good marketing tactic, and fair with individual issues; however, I question its use in a larger novelization.  

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.

Sabotaged - A Review


A Review

As a former professor, I think tests are great.  Let me give one - but I will include my own answers.

    1. Do you enjoy mysteries? YES
    2. Do you enjoy drama? YES
    3. Do you enjoy Christian books? YES
    4. Do you enjoy a hint of romance? YES

If you, like I did, answered “YES” to each of these questions, you will likely enjoy Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey.  

Kirra Jacob’s cousin has been kidnapped in order to coerce her uncle to take part in some unknown criminal activity.  Saving her cousin and discovering the nature of her uncle’s involvement in the criminal plot provide the plot for a great adventure.  Following the Iditarod Sled Race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska, provides the scenic backdrop for the story.  The descriptive action along that route, and throughout other Alaskan landmarks provide an opportunity for the reader to virtually visit territory generally unreachable by the average reader.  Keeping Google and Wikipedia close at hand will provide tools to further explore and appreciate a state that for most is inaccessible - but full of beauty and history, none the less.  

The Christian heritage brought by the McKenna family to the story allows the writer to weave, unobtrusively, the Christian faith into this 330+ page book.  And along with the rebuilding of faith that comes as Kirra moves from the brokenness she experienced following a rape several years earlier to understanding both God’s and a man’s love we get a sense of how God’s grace can work in the most broken of us.

With the Iditarod Dog Sled Race arriving soon, Sabotaged might provide the perfect late Winter, early Spring read as we await the arrival of green grass and red robins.  

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, January 13, 2015

Losers Like Us - A Review

A Review

I have long known that I am broken.  I would have never thought to call myself a “LOSER”; yet, like the apostles, I am.

I find some books fun to read.  I find some books helpful to read.  There are some books I think will be helpful to others.  But, every so often, I find a book that is life changing for me.  Losers Like Us is one of those books.

One of the first books that opened my eyes in this way was Charles Swindoll’s “The Grace Awakening.  Losers Like Us does it again.  The author takes each of the apostles and describes why they had no business being chosen by Jesus as one of the twelve.  He could have chosen almost any individual from Biblical history, but because these twelve spent the most time living with and around Jesus, these twelve serve as perfect examples of who not to choose as a disciple.  There were the nobodies, the do nothings, the followers, the faithless.  Each, in their own way, were losers. Yet, Jesus chose them, not by default, but individually, to be leaders in the early church.  Similarly, there is no reason that God should allow me to serve Him, but he does.

That is the significance of this book, God can take individuals, regardless of how broken or lost they are, and remake them into His image.  Whether it be an unscrupulous tax collector, an unknown named James, or two apostles that we know nothing about other than they appear in lists of the twelve that spent three years with Jesus.  
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.

Gliserwood - A Review

A Review

I grew up in a different generation.  Actually, two generations ago.  My favorite books as a child were a series of 14 books by L. Frank Baum - beginning with The Wizard of Oz. I am pleased to have read a book, written by our church’s youth pastor, that reminds me of the magic I felt as a young reader beginning my journey into books.

Laurel spent summers at her Aunts house.  She did not like those boring summers, where her best friends were the clouds that floated by.  Her biggest dream was to visit the woods, an act forbidden her by her aunt.  

But Laurel stumbles on a baker; no, the baker, Mr. Lewisago, hired to watch over her by her mother.  And as she spends time with her new friend, her curiosity gets the better of her.  One night she and Mr. Mumkin, a chinchilla given to Laurel as a birthday present by her mother, decide to finally visit the woods.  And the magic begins.

As the story evolves, we meet Fairy Queens, dragons, Zlugs, and Flipityflops - the kinds of creatures that made the unbelievable of Oz very real to those who read the books.  The kinds of creatures of that bring Gliserwood to life.

For the parent looking for a book to read to your youngsters as they go to bed, as an adult looking for something lighter, or for the young teen looking for the perfect birthday gift for a friend, Gliserwood may fill the bill.  
This review is based on a free copy provided by the author for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Dreaming Spies - A Review

Dreaming Spies

Laurie R. King

A Review

I do not claim to be a Sherlock Holmes expert, merely a fan.  Though the original author of Holmes’ memoirs died in 1930, other writers have picked up the pen and continued to add to the unofficial canon that make up Holmes’ history.  Among those is Laurie R. King.

Dreaming Spies continues her look at Holmes’ marriage to Mary Russell - this time with a romp to Japan and the Far East and an adventure in early 20th century England. The mystery is quite entertaining, it is unclear who plays the role of detective and of villain.  Is it Holmes that is being played - or has Holmes played one of the villain himself.  

Though the answer is never quite clear, the story of English mystery mixed with Japanese Samurai makes an enjoyable read on a Winter evening.  

  • Was this the best Holmes story I have read?  NO
  • Was this the worst Holmes story I have read?  NO
  • Would I recommend this to the casual Holmes reader? YES
  • Would I recommend this to the Holmes expert?  I Don’t Know

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.

Believe: Living the Story of the Bible to Become Like Jesus - A Review

A Review

Believe is the third book I would recommend to the individual wanting to study theology without being spoon fed by an author.  The older of these is nearly (sadly) out of print, Gordon R. Lewis’ Decide For Yourself.  The second book was published more recently, Darryl Aaron’s Understanding Theology in 15 Minutes A Day.  Randy Frazee has now published a similar book that allows the reader to do theology for herself or himself.

The book, as a whole, is divided into three sections.  The first covers the topics most commonly found in a systematic theology text.  The second examines what might be termed “practical theology” - answering questions about how our beliefs influence how we live.  The third section, using the Fruit of the Spirit as a guide, focuses on how faith effects who we are, i.e. a “heart theology”.  

The three sections are further divided into chapters discussing major topics.  The chapters are divided into sub-topics, each beginning with a brief one paragraph discussion of the questions being addressed.  My only complaint with the entire book is that these sub-topics are only delineated by the use italics - no bold print, no dark lines, no icons separate the end of one sub-topic and the beginning of another except that the following paragraph is in italics.  

This paragraph is followed, not by lists of scriptures as found in the earlier books, but by the scriptures (using the NIV) themselves.  Scriptures may be a single verse (rarely), a pericope, or a chapter or two related to the current topic.  Because the scriptures are quoted, the current book is substantially longer than the earlier volumes, though the information detail remains about the same.

The current book is recommended for the lay Christian seeking to understand why and what they believe.  In the local church, it could easily serve as the basis for a year long Sunday School or Bible Study discussing similar topics.  The two more practical sections of Believe would make it a welcome addition to this audience.  It may also have a place in a Bible College or Seminary course where denominational indoctrination is of less importance than personal spiritual growth.  I would also recommend this book for the pastor or established Christian looking for a fresh way to explore one’s faith and its application to life.

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.