Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Exploring the Gifts of the Spirit - A Review

Exploring the Gifts of the Spirit
Discovering the Power God Has For You

John Michael Talbot
Steve Rabey

John Michael Talbot has been known as a Christian singer since the late 60’s and early 70’s. He joined the Roman Catholic Church in the late 70’s. Though his ministry is primarily a Catholic work, he continues to also reach out to the larger church.

The current work is an exploration of the Spiritual Gifts. He begins by exploring the history of the Spiritual Gifts within the church and the author’s own journey as he sought to understand their role within the church. He also explores the role of the Holy Spirit within Jesus’ own ministry and within the church.

It is unclear to this reader how the author chose the order to discuss the various gifts. He begins with what appears to be an historical order - “speaking in tongues” and the “interpretation of tongues,” as found in the book of Acts. He then begins to explore the gifts in the order listed in I Corinthians 12:4-11:
  • Words of wisdom
  • Words of knowledge
  • Faith
  • Healing
  • Miracles
  • Prophesy
  • Discernment of Spirit
Each of these chapters is heavily grounded in Scripture using the NIV (along with quotations from the ESV, The Message, and the NRSVCE). He also borrows from his lifetime of music to occasionally illustrate his thoughts. The insights John Michael Talbot provides are not only teachable concepts but also practical.

The final two chapters speak about, what the author calls, “lesser known gifts”: Administration, Rest, Tears, Ecstasy, Laughter, and Stigmata. These six topics are covered in less detail and in a single chapter. The author completes his study by looking at the “better way”: LOVE, giving it the same detail that he gave the earlier discussion of the gifts. He concludes by providing instruction for the Christian as they make their own spiritual journey. Important words for all believers, wherever they may be in that journey.
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 29, 2020

John (Alabaster Guided Meditations) - A Review

(Alabaster Guided Meditations)

Edited by
Brian Chung and Bryan Ye-Chung

IVP has long had a history of creating Bible Study materials suitable for both individual and group studies. Though designed for individual study and devotions this new series of Bible Studies still remain useful for individual and group study.

The editors have combined Scripture, art (i.e. photographs), and meditations, to guide the reader to study, dig, understand, and apply scripture. The book contains the complete text of the New Living Translation - separated with pages of art work and meditations. I do not get as excited with the included art - occasionally the included black and white picture add some meaning to the associated passage, but not often enough to be helpful to this reader.

The meditations are helpful. Based around the historic lectio divina methodology of "Read, Reflect, Respond, and Rest". The 10 meditations each focus the reader's attention on a small section of scripture - for example, the first one centers on “The Wedding at Cana”. This meditation includes 19 questions or spiritual directions divided between each of the four phases of the lectio divina methodology. The questions are very open-ended - not demanding canned answers - but seeking thoughtful, personal, prayerful answers. The questions, on the surface, do not appear to be deep, but are written in such a way that the reader can dive as deep into their meaning as he or she desires.

I will note that though the retail version of the book does not appear to be available as an e-book, the PDF review copy I received was at times difficult to read because the light-colored backgrounds tended to obscure the non-Biblical text printed in white. Biblical text is printed with black ink on a white background.

The book, as mentioned earlier, would serve the individual’s study of scripture or for a small group. I was so impressed with the PDF version of the Bible Study that I have purchased two copies, for my wife and I, to study together in the evenings. Rarely do I purchase additional copies of books I have reviewed - this one is an exception. Thank you, IVP. 
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 24, 2020

Goodnight Moo - A Review

I have never lived on a farm - though I have had family and friends who have. Brief visits as they showed me their settings - the field, the barns, the cheese make, etc. only prepared me in small ways to appreciate the love farmers have for their homestead. Brynn MacAllister has set up a small CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. She was operating a small dairy farm whose specialty was cheese. She had grown to love her three Red Devon milking cows, and she was learning to appreciate Jewel, the orphaned Scottish Highland cow she was fostering until a permanent owner could be found. Life was great.

At least until a series of odd events began to define her newly adopted hometown. A teen was killed by a neighbor’s tractor, another was apparently shot by Brynn’s hired hand, ransomware began to infect the town’s computers. And Brynn found herself in the middle of the action. The book has enough intrigue to satisfy both the agriculturally minded individual and the technologically minded expert working in the field. We also learn that even small town America is not as innocent as it might appear. Brynn, along with her family and friends, working with the local police, sheriff’s office, and the FBI, will spend two weeks discovering clues, tracking leads, and solving the crimes - saving more than one person’s life in the process.

The book has an intriguing plot with enough twists and turns to hold the interest of most lovers of cozy mysteries. At times the reading was a bit slow, but whether that was the current pandemic or the nature of the book, this reviewer is not sure. Grab the book and enjoy the ride.
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 22, 2020

Aging - A Review



Will Willimon

This is the second book I have read this Spring focusing on ministry to the senior saints in our churches. Dr. Willimon is a Bishop in the United Methodist Church and former Dean of the Chapel at Duke University. He presents a well throughout discussion of the role seniors play in the 21st century church. The book is both scholarly and readable - and clearly shows his appreciation for the elderly.

Whether the reader is directly working with an elderly population (as this reviewer has for the last 15+ years) or merely has them as a member of their congregation, the book is a must-read. It could be assigned reading for those ministering to seniors - whether just entering that age group or nearing death doorstep. It is a practical book including explaining the needs of the elderly at each stage of the aging process and practical tips on how to meet those needs.

I would recommend it sit on every pastor’s bookshelf (after being read) and in the library of every local church. Students studying social work would find this to be a supportive guide for those who are working with this population.
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.

Dead Silence - A Review

Dead Silence


Robin Caroll

Because Elise Carmichael’s son was deaf and mute, she had learned ASL (American Sign Language) and lipread. What she “heard” across the lobby the of the Arkansas Federal Courthouse shook her to the core, but she promptly forgot it moments later when she received word that her son had been injured and taken to the hospital with a broken hand he received after falling at the playground. She forgot about the overheard conversation until the next day when she received word that her mother-in-law had been murdered the previous night. Thus begins the story that would lead to her being accused of murder and her son being kidnapped to keep her quiet.

This faith-based thriller explores the anguish of a widowed mother trying to balance her and her families safety with the need to allow the police to investigate the murder of a U.S. Senator - a tight rope she was not sure she could handle well. In the process she will learn to increase her trust in God - whether in the midst of fear, anger, or disappointment.

The book easily could find its way into a public, church, or a believer’s private library. The author does not push God upon the reader, but allows him or her to face the issue of faith along with Elise and her family and friends. The book might make a good birthday or Christmas gift for a non-believing friend or family member. Easily, a five-star book from this 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.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

The Last High - A Review

The Last High


Daniel Kalla

The opioid crisis is mostly front page news in the 21st century. Daniel Kallas has written a medical drama that views the crisis from multiple perspectives: medical, community, the addict, the person in recovery, the dealers, and law enforcement. The story begins with a group of teens partying with no alcohol or drugs. Except one of the teens decides to spike the lemonade with ecstasy. By the end of the night 6 of the 7 kids would be dead, another dozen would die from the same drug before the crime was solved. Solving the crime would fall upon Dr. Julie Rees, ER doctor and toxicologist, and Detective Anson Chen, from the Vancouver Police Department.

The Last High allows the reader to understand the issues as seen by the various players. We meet the addict who is always an addict; we meet the dealers who are as much businessmen as they are filthy criminals; and we meet members of law enforcement who have seen it all.

Daniel Kalla, an emergency physician from Vancouver BC, presents a compelling story that draws the reader into the lives of all concerned. The book also provides an overview of the opioid crisis to those of us who are not involved directly in the midst of it. My only wish is that a book, though fiction, that delves into a subject of current interest might include an epilogue that suggest places that the general reader could learn more about the opioid epidemic and how the public can help address the problems it creates. Alas, this book is missing this final step.
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.

Friday, June 5, 2020

A Study In Murder - A Review

A Study In Murder


Callie Hutton

A fun trip to Bath, England, during the years prior to WWI, A Study in Murder explores the city and the culture of Victorian England while leading the main characters and the readers through an intriguing murder mystery.

Lady Amy Lowell stumbles (literally) on her ex-fiancé’s body in the library of her home. Though those who know her know she was incapable of murder, the police are not convinced. She will need to work with Lord William Wethington and members of her household staff to identify the actual murderer.

Now Lady Amy Lowell is not afraid of exploring the uncomfortable side of crime as her chosen occupation is that of a mystery author. Unbeknownst to the members of her book club, she has written several of the mysteries they have read in the past. With the knowledge gained through researching her stories, she is well-equipped to investigate the murder of Mr. Ronald St. Vincent, her ex-fiancé.

Though I expect a visit to Bath is outside my budget, Callie Hutton presents an inviting city that would be worth taking the time to explore; hopefully, without a murder charge hanging over my neck. To those with an interest in Victorian England, cozy mysteries, and colorful, believable characters, this new book from an experienced author will be an enjoyable read. The first book in a new series, A Study in Murder becomes an excellent opportunity to discover a new favorite story-teller.

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.