Monday, October 31, 2016

25 Questions God Asked - A Review

25 Questions God Asked.jpg

A Review

Every so often a gem of a book crosses my path. This week it has happened twice - this is the first of two books I am glad to have in my library that I may have passed over if I were not regularly reviewing books. The Christian Scriptures contain over 3000 questions, nearly 14% of these were asked by God. The author has pulled 25 of those questions that God asked to write a powerful and useful devotional.

First, let me raise the only major question I have - why 25? Why not 30 or 31 (one month), why not 260 (one a day for each weekday of the year), or why not 365 (one for each day of the year)? Twenty-five is a round number, but it seems arbitrary, given a set of 3000 possible questions to pull from. I suppose, the real issue is that the book is so well-written, that I wish there were more. Perhaps there will be more to come.

Each devotional consists of a nicely written essay and a series of study questions to allow the reader  further look at himself and at God. The questions are open ended - as most good questions are. The devotionals are both exegetical and personal:

“Did God throw up His hands when He asked, “What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it?” (Isaiah 5:4)”

The reader will be challenged to examine his or her own life by each of the 25 short chapters in this short (225 page) book. The reader will also be challenged to allow God to examine his or her life - the reader will not be able to sit still as as he or she makes her way through this book.

As I wrote earlier, 25 questions is not enough - we can only hope that there will be more to come from this thoughtful author.

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.

The Candidate - A Review

The Candidate

The Candidate.jpg

Lis Wiehl

A Review

If a reader enjoyed The Manchurian Candidate or Capricorn One, that same reader will likely enjoy Lis Wiehl’s newest political thriller, The Candidate.

The Presidential election is drawing nigh, the Republican and Democratic candidates have been selected, polls are predicting a winner, but to Erica Sparks, GNN’s number one news reporter, something seems amiss. One candidate does not seem himself and Erica is determined to find out why. Her search will take her from New York City, to Washington, D.C., to the San Francisco Bay Area, Portland, Cleveland, Iraq, and Seattle among others.

In the search to find the answers she needs, she may lose her family, her friends, and her life; but finding the answers may determine the future of America and the rest of the free world. She will not stop looking for the truth.

The novel would make a wonderful thriller on the big screen - with big name players, a movie based on this novel’s plot would easily hold an audience’s attention. Maybe more so than the book itself. The biggest flaw in the book is the writing style. At times it feels as if the writing is disjointed, full of simple sentences, not as if coming from the pen of an accomplished and skilled writer and lawyer.

With this single flaw, the book will appeal to those who are fans of James Bond, Jack Reacher, and Robert Langdon, will find this book inviting and worthy of their time. I did.
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, October 26, 2016

NIV Bible for Teen Guys - A Review

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A Review

A devotional Bible for Teen guys, this Bible contains a number of tools and helps that will encourage the teen guy. For the young teen it will be a suitable Bible to use for three or four years; for the older teen it might be more suitable for a single year as he works through the devotionals and character studies.

A number of helps are included:

  • A year's worth of devotional studies
  • Character profiles of key men in scripture
  • Brief book introductions for each book of the Bible
  • Key Bible promises worth remembering are highlighted

Of these, the last seems to be the least useful, as the highlights a very light yellow, difficult to see except in the very brightest light. The devotionals are a mix of theology, exegesis, and practical thoughts. Some end in thoughtful questions, others with hints about life; but all of those I read were of value.

Designed to parallel the similarly designed NIV Bible For Teen Girls, first introduced in August 2015, this current book is being introduced just in time for Christmas 2016 giving. It would be an appropriate gift for parents or grandparents to consider for holiday giving.

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.

The Long Journey to Jake Palmer - A Review

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A Review

One of my first thoughts as I was reading was of C S Lewis’ Narnian Chronicles. I found as I continured reading that my thought was more than coincidental.  Though the book is not a rewrite of the Lewis’ famous heptalogy, it does draw from Lewis’ imaginary stories. It tells the story of one man, lost, for all intents and purposes, on his faith journey. Finding his way back would not be easy and it would take the intervention of God and the support of friends before the journey could be completed.

But the reader soon learns that is a journey that we all must take - a journey that will involve pain, healing, patience, forgiveness, and grace. For me, the book was a reminder of a journey that I had to take some 25 years ago. As for me, like Jake, the journey started at camp - a camp that I, and he,  would return to for many years.

Written in the style of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the reader is drawn into the center of Jake Palmer’s life and the struggles he had to face, some of his own making, some the result of circumstances over which he had no control. Though at times he did not think so, God was there to hold his hand and guide him through each step in the process. The journey would not be easy and lessons sometimes difficult to discern.

Of the three books I have read from this author, this title is the best one yet, probably because it touched me so deeply, bringing to the surface a reminder of the healing God offered that would evntually allow me to to serve Him in ways I would never expect. It was not just a mental reminder, but an emotional one as well.

For the Christian counselor or pastor, there are plenty of selfhelp books on the market. But sometimes a story can communicate better than the typican non-fiction work. For some, this book may help communicate a message that has been missed by the traditional tools.

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, October 19, 2016

Praying the Names of God - A Review

Praying the Names of God
Praying The Names of God.jpg
LeAnne Blackmore

A Review

A devotional for the prayer life - that pretty much sums up the nature of this book.

The author does not so much focus on how to pray, but providing suggested prayers for 200 of the most well-known names of God.  I am in the midst of a sermon series on “The Names of God”; last week (the third in our series) our focus was on El Shaddai. It so happens that this is the first listing/prayer in the book. Here is a typical entry:

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As indicated above, the entries are both devotional and focused on prayer. I like that the prayers are conversational - where the author not only submits his prayers, but also supplies appropriate answers. The various entries are not scholarly, but they will allow the reader to draw near to God as he or she moves through the book. The names (and prayers) are sorted using the common ACTS mneumonic:

A - Prayers of Adoration
C - Prayers of Confession
T - Prayers of Thanksgiving
S - Prayers of Supplication

In addition, a complete Bibical index is included as an appendix. I would also like to see an alphabetical index (alas, this is missing from many simiar books) which would allow the reader to search by the actual names reference throughout the text.

The book can be used as a resource during sermon preparation, as I am using it; or as a part of the reader’s daily devotional life; or, of course both.

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, October 18, 2016

New King James Study Bible - A Review

New King James
Study Bible
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Dr. Earl D. Radmacher
General Editor
Dr. Ronald B. Allen
Old Testament Editor
Dr. H. Wayne House
New Testament Editor

A Review

Because the NKJV Study Bible has now been out for a number of years and has been reviewed by others, my purpose in writing this review is not to review the contents of the NKJV Study Bible. If I did, it would be a five star review. My purpose of writing this review is to examine the Turquoise and Navy covered edition provided for review.

When first given the opportunity to review this edition of the NKJV Study Bible I was concerned, given the small size of the Bible. I was pleasantly surprised that the text (even footnotes) is very readable, and the images are sharp. I suspect, but cannot prove, that the text might be difficult to read in low light, but this is not the case in normal lighting. The text may be difficult to use a highlighter on (the paper is a bit thin). I have gotten into the practice of using Crayola Twistables as my main highlighter for Bibles (hey, crayon does not bleed through), but the highlight may be too big for the text used in the Bible.

The Bible is the complete NKJV Study Bible (2nd Edition) - all 2100+ pages of it. The concordance and maps are paged separately and consists of another 200 pages. It is the right size to fit in a briefcase or backpack to use when away from my larger library. A number of months ago I went looking for just such a Bible. At the time I settled on a slightly larger version of a Catholic Bible - the Personal Size NKJV Study Bible would have served as an excellent choice, if it had been available at the time. I honestly do not know which I would have chosen given the choice - the list price of the Catholic study Bible is half that of the version being reviewed. This Bible would serve as a helpful addition to my collection of study Bibles except I already owned a hardback version of the original NKJV Study Bible and the paperback version of the full-color 2nd edition. The major drawback of this version is the lack of colors to complement the text.  Notes and cross references are provided with a tan background, maps embedded in the text are black and white.

If you are looking for a relative low cost study Bible for your use or as a gift (note there is a dedication page included just inside the front cover), this compact size but complete study Bible may serve the purpose.

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.

Lethal Lifestyles - A Review

Lethal Lifestyles
Lethal Lifestyles.jpg
LynDee Walker

A Review

Newspaper Reporter, amateur sleuth Nichelle (aka Nicey) Clark is up to her neck in wine barrels. Sadly, so was Mitch Burke - only he was over his head in wine and very dead. And it gets worse, his body was found on the eve of the rehearsal dinner. It was going to be a strange wedding, at the very least and without Nicey’s help, there might not be a wedding at all.

The book was a fun-filled, cozy mystery. I just never figured out why it took me six weeks to get through a book that would normally have taken me 6 to 8 days to finish. It might have been the vacation (actually two) that my wife and I took in the midst of reading it; it might have been longer than it seemed as I worked my way through the Kindle book I was provided for review; or it may have just been a bit more boring that it seemed as I read it. And it may have been a combination of all three.  

Appropriate for the average cozy mystery reader or the public library - I hope others enjoy it as much as I did.

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, October 6, 2016

NKJV Word Study Bible

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A Review

Not quite a study Bible, but more than a devotional Bible, this version belongs in the church library and on the layman’s desk.

The major feature of this book gives it its name - 1700 short and brief descriptions of key Hebrew and Greek words that will help the reader better understand the meaning of scripture. The major drawback is that the descriptions are all too brief to be of use to the preacher or scholar without further study in more formal sources (i.e. Bible Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, etc.).

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Though the provided word studies are too brief, the accompanying indexes do give significant value to the work.

  1. English Word Index
  2. Scripture Passage Index
  3. Strong Number Index for both Hebrew and Greek Words
  4. Concordance (typical to that found in most study Bibles)

Also included, throughout the text, are cross-references pointing to a scripture reference where a word study can be found (see “create” and “male” in the image above). What is missing from the basic definitions provided are descriptions of antonyms and synonyms that might help justify the use of one word over another, or a comparison of Hebrew and Greek words used to express similar ideas or which are tied together by their parallel use in the Septuagint. The inclusion of these three pieces would provide a more complete study Bible and one more helpful to the pastor and scholar.  
Bottom line: Thomas Nelson has made a great first start to what could become an extremely useful Study Bible. With the contributions of a few additional scholars and a willingness to allot more editorial space to the definitions, this could become a wonderful reference book. For now, it has not quite reached that level.

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. I actually had pre-ordered a copy of this book prior to receiving notice that I was going to be allowed to review the book. I retained one copy. I passed the second copy to my pastor for either his own use or to pass onto a lay member of the church in need of a Study Bible.

Knowing God By Name - A Review

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A Review

I have been aware of David Wilkerson since my earliest days as a believer.  His The Sword and the Switchblade, both the book and the movie, were part of my early journey into Christian reading outside of the Scriptures. As I was preparing a sermon series on The Names of God, I was excited to stumble upon this book and gladly added it to my library; expecting it to contribute to my sermon preparation over the next few weeks.

I was disappointed. Rather than being a discussion of the names of God, it serves as a platform for the author to discuss themes of interest to him. The names of God are only secondary to the primary themes developed in the book - not irrelevant, but supplementary to the concept hinted at in the book's title.

The book is well-written and interesting in its own right, but it is not the book that was expected given its title. Let me give one example - I am in the midst of preparing a message on “Immanuel”. The chapter devoted to this name is actually focused on the theme of spiritual warfare. That “God is with us” (the meaning of Immanuel) is certainly relevant to the topic, it has not become the focus of the chapter.

For the reader, church, or library, looking for a book by David Wilkerson, this book will fill the bill. If the reader is looking for an in depth examination on some of or all of the Names of God, this book misses the point.

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.