Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The NIV Essentials Study Bible

If you want to own one single bible that is good for study as well as devotional time and reflection, the NIV Essentials Study Bible is the only bible you will need.  This bible has every study feature you could ever ask for in a bible- including historical, theological and life application information.  This bible is full of bible helps on just about every page: maps, charts, illustrations, black and white photographs as well as the traditional study notes on the bottom of the page.  This bible is great for new bible readers as well experienced readers. Nevertheless, with the new release of other full color study bibles by Zondervan and Thomas Nelson, I feel the Essentials bible in black and white is already dated or obsolete.  I don't see where it fits and almost seems redundant in light of all the newly released full color study options.

As far as everyday study, the font is big enough so as not to require the reader to squint.  Unlike most study bibles where the bible text is extremely tiny, I found the bible text to be readable.  The contrasting blue graphics, and blue headlines in bold font,  add visual appeal as well.  The side bars of information and the articles break up the bible text. Underneath the dust jacket, the glossy finish black cover is fairly standard, reminiscent of a generic pew bible, which is perfectly fine for those who prefer traditional bible covers.

The only improvement that would make this bible even better is if there was full color throughout.  The inside dust jacket depicts the various bible resources from which this bible compendium was created.  One of the resources listed included the full color 1984 NIV translation Archeological study bible.  Having had the Archeological study bible for many years, I am most impressed with the full color interior and photos of that particular  bible.  I feel it is a shame, that a marketing reference to this wonderful bible is included on the dust jacket, and I wonder why the publishers could not have made the Essentials Study Bible in full color as well.  To me, listing each individual bible simply seems like a marketing or advertising tool in a last attempt to sell more of the older bibles in the Zondervan line.  Personally with the NIV Essentials Study bible- I do not feel any bible reader would ever need to buy another study bible- unless of course it was in full color which is the one major shortfall when comparing this bible with some of the other Zondervan study bibles. In my opinion, anyone who invests their money in purchasing this high end bible, is not likely to turn around and purchase another bible right away.  At some point, owning multiple study bibles is redundant.

For anyone looking for a good bible that will provide a lifetime of value and study, the NIV Essentials bible is possible among the top choices. I have been spoiled by full color bibles and would pass this one up for a full color study bible instead. As a blogger for booklook I received a copy of this book.

Friday, December 13, 2013

What Happens When I Die by Bill Wiese

What Happens When I Die by Bill Wiese is a compilation of evidence from scripture as well as collective near death experiences that support the afterlife. Coming from a respected authority- this credible book bears great spiritual weight.

The title of Wiese's book,  makes a pretty bold claim.  Especially bold are the promises to inform the reader about specific aspects of Heaven  through a variety of sources, visions and even literal visits to heaven and hell. This book is a great springboard or outreach tool to introduce any reader to the gospel message.  As far as marketing, this book will draw in many curious reader- religious and secular, alike.  Many readers, filled with curiosity- most of which probably have only  limited experience or a superficial grasp of the actual text of the bible, will find it hard to resist a book with such monumental claims.  To add additional legitimacy and authenticity- the author provides a variety of sources.  This book is not simply the product of one person's vision but a compilation of shared experiences- yet distinct that support the basic scriptural message of the afterlife.

Nevertheless, Weise's thought provoking book  raises spiritually complex issues such as the issue of the legitimacy of private visions apart from revealed scripture.  While it is true that some NDE can be ruled out as the side effects of a dying or injured brain, not all can be scientifically ruled out.  Some perhaps might be supernatural in nature.  Nevertheless that does not mean they should automatically be accepted as biblical in nature or truth.  I must admit I am skeptical when it comes to believing modern day visions and NDE.  For example, there are so many alleged apparitions of Mary in the Catholic church, that I believe most to be hoaxes, and in other cases, demonic in nature. 

 The reader places his faith by accepting the word of the  the author of this book.    Once the reader decides to accept the author's word that the various  stories  are legit,  it is up to the reader to discern the source or supernatural power behind the NDEs. This is where most readers will most likely accept with blind faith that these wholeheartedly are true accounts and that it is based on biblical truth. This is because most people want to believe this heartwarming and comforting message is true. 

 Any responsible reader familiar with the bible will be aware that he or she is faced with the task of determining if the experiences are spiritually based on truth, or if it perhaps is an indirect attempt of Satan to mislead believers into accepting false information.  Paul warned in the letters of the new testement, especially in the book of Galations, that even Satan, and evil spirits can appear as angels of light, deceiving many.  So, if this is true, then is it possible that as accomplished and respected Christian speaker and authority might be decieved and misinterpret the collective experiences as being from God when it possibly isn't?  That possibility must be acknowledged by anyone who reads this book.   While Paul acknowledged the possibility of personal visions in the ancient church, he himself did not place on any believer the burden of accepting any other private vision other than the message contained in the bible. As Paul himself suggested in his letters, it is wise to be skeptical of private visions, and he himself never endorsed or encouraged any believer to believe any private vision or revelation. In a book about heaven, for the purpose of credibility and fidelity to bible, I believe any extraneous visions, dreams, experiences etc that are not divinely inspired/ biblical should be carefully considered  before taken to heart.

As far as the other details- knowledge and information could be obtained from evil sources for the purpose of adding "authenticity" and misleading believers into believeing the other aspects of the visions  shared.  The evil spirits are known for mixing truth with falsehood.  We are in a spiritual battle, and nothing is off limits as far as the evil spirits of this world are concerned.  they will try all sorts oftricky and decieving deceptions. They will  try any underhanded tactic even going so far as using Christian elites, educators, leaders and the faithful, as tools to mislead others.  It isn't always obvious to everyone to sort truth from untruth unless they are firmly grounded in the Holy Spirit. Even those involved in the occult such as palm readers and fortune tellers, can sometimes fortell the future or the past with amazing accuracy with supernatural information supplied by the evil spirit realm.  In sum, the sole purpose of this book isn't in the after death experiences or sensational stories, but rather to deliver the life saving message of the gospel.  These stories serve as a springboard or bait- in the true sense in which Jesus refers to all apostles, followers and believers as fishers of men.

All in all there is no doubt that Wiese has written this book with authority and scholarship. The author has left no stone uncovered in his survey of the subject of the afterlife.  This book is so complete that it could even serve as an academic text.  There is additional information in the appendixes on the authenticity of the bible and biblical prophecy.  The overall purpose is to give the reader a sense of urgency and to come to faith in the true Gospel.  That is after all the purpose of the gift of salvation through the Good News.  And in this sense, Weise has accomplished his purpose- tailoring his book to a receptive audience in a package that is irresistible to countless curious, and spiritually hungry readers.

As a blogger for the Booketeria  I received this book from Charisma house  publishers for the purpose of writing this review.  It is with caution I would suggest this book to anyone to read  as it is best for serious study for a reader that is willing to take the time to discern, in light of scripture, the validity of the messages from collective after death experiences.

Trapped by Lawrence W. Gold, M.D.

Written with the authenticity that can only be captured by a professional, the new medical thriller, Trapped by Lawrence W. Gold, M.D. will capture the attention of any reader.  There are endless titles available in the ever growing medical thriller genre.  What sets this book above and beyond is the authentic medical details that could only be provided by an experienced medical doctor.  With years of experience with his medical practice and education, the realistic medical details provided in the area of neuroscience and perinatology will draw in those readers who crave more than mindless entertainment.

Gold's writing style is authentic and detailed- what one might expect from a medical doctor.  The story focuses on a couple, Lisa and Mike,  overwhelmed by two separate medical battles: high risk pregnancy and brain trauma.  The "locked in syndrome" is a mysterious and frightening rare medical condition which claims as its victim, Mike, as a result of an auto accident in the storyline.  The author goes deep into the thoughts and feelings of Mike during his living nightmare of "locked in syndrome".  Not only are authentic medical details provided, but the depth of emotion, anguish, and pain is vividly portrayed as well.  As a  reader, I found myself wanting to read this book from start to finish, simply to see the resolution of Mark's story. 

Many of the chapters are marked based on Lisa's pregnancy - "weeks 7-11", and "week 33", for example. This added to the dramatic effect of time in the high risk pregnancy where every week counts.  The author realistically depicted the social and emotional aspects of a modern high risk pregnancy, that Lisa experienced,  on her own while her husband was hospital confined.  He effectively captured the tense circumstances in which a single pregnant mom must depend on an extended social network for emotional support.  Not only that, but realistic medical explanation and description is provided for Lisa's high risk pregnancy. Her pregnancy is marked with anxiety as she is in and out of the hospital for various episodes of bleeding. Her emotional resources are overwhelmed as she must also consider Mike's prognosis. These details: medical and emotional, which would largely be overlooked or vaguely described by most authors, are treated with careful attention by Gold.  

This book, Trapped is one of a series of novels, the Brier Hospital Series.  These plots go beyond prime time television medical dramas in their authenticity.  Nevertheless, I can see how this storyline could easily be translated to a television drama series.  This book is a great choice for anyo reader who enjoys medical thrillers.  As a blogger I received a copy of this book, published by Grass Valley Publishing for the purpose of writing this review.

To learn more about this author, please visit....

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

There Are No Space Aliens! by David J Gonzalez

The definitive title, of the book There Are No Space Aliens! by David J Gonzalez, leaves no doubt as to the author's position in regards to possible life in outer space.  This timely book addresses the biblical objections to the theories of alien life that so many are readily willing to place their faith.  In this day and age, media and movies are inundated with alien themes.  The science fiction movies and television series of today, present the audience with plausible sounding theories of alien life forms. Ironically, often those who reject the notion of God's existence are more than willing to place their faith in the existence of alien life.  Nevertheless, this book isn't written just in response to religious skeptics and atheists,  but  for the ever growing number of religious people who also believe in the possibility of alien life as well. 

Using the bible as a springboard, Gonzalez refutes the erroneous ideas and theories about alien life.  First and foremost, I believe the strongest argument against the idea of alien life- is simply the fact that the bible does not mention other worlds and other life forms.  And an overlooked argument, based on common sense- is the fact that there would be no provision for an alien on another world to receive Jesus as its savior.  Scripture plain and simple, as well as common sense dictate that aliens could not exist.  Its amazing how many adults reject common sense and logic. Even Christians do not realize how a belief in aliens strips down and erodes the validity of scripture as it is direct opposition to revealed revelation from God.  Nevertheless the author goes in deeper, exploring the theological implications and contradictions that would exist if in fact there were alien worlds and alien life forms. The author organizes the book by 12 main biblical points that disprove the existence of space aliens. Each point is its own chapter.  The author breaks up the text into short, bite sized paragraphs which will help to keep the reader's attention and focus, in contrast to longer monotonous sized chunks of text.  This book explores the depths of theology, Christian scholarship and logic, and relates how the basic tenants of Christian faith and theology are inconsistent with a belief in alien life forms. This book makes a valuable apologetic tool for any parent who finds himself faced with answering a question about aliens, or student who is faced with peers who assume the possibility of alien life is simply an extension of common sense. 

This book is the second edition, from the original edition printed in 2003.  I received a copy for the purpose of writing this review.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Emma of Aurora by Jane Kirkpatrick

Emma of Aurora is a compendium of the three books of the "Change & Cherish" trilogy by Jane Kirkpatrick.  In this sizable 1153 page volume, the complete text of the three novels: A Clearing in the Wild, A Tendering in the Storm and A mending at the Edge, are contained. These novels are based on the true life account of Emma Wagner Giesy.As with Kirkpatrick's other works of historical fiction, this book will not disappoint readers who are expecting an in-depth, multilayered story in which a woman of incredible moral strength and perseverance makes decisions that are incomprehensible to today's softened, entitled society. Kirkpatrick writes in the tradition of Bronte's Jane Eye and other classical works featuring strong female characters and in-depth challenges.

Jane Kirkpatrick's fiction stands out as more authentic and engaging than most traditional works  under the umbrella called the  "Christian" genre.  Most "Christian" novels are either Amish love stories or just simply romance stories in general. Even the genre "historical" fiction usually is another name for a romance novel that takes place either in Amish country or in the 1800s old west.  True to its claim, it actually is to be considered a historical fiction novel  True details about society's standards, the townspeople and technologies are faithfully included.  Even the descriptions of towns, characters and circumstances are well researched right to the very last little detail. Historical facts and accuracy enlighten the reader as well as add to the authenticity.  This compendium book held my attention from the start.  It was not a chore to read- as there is always an engaging setting, or authentic heart wrenching emotional experience.   Furthermore, the course of the story and its events were unexpected and as well as the endings.  Unlike typical books, in which there is a typical fairy tale happy ending in which the heroine gets married and has children, this story an a non traditional happy ending where as the heroine, a strong, independant woman, remained strong, independant and single despite disspointements, rejection  and  hardship.  This book brought on a new twist to society's perception of a happy ending.

The poignant expressive writing jumps out at the reader. For example, after the birth of Emma's first child, without her husband, Emma finds herself unable to breastfeed her newborn baby.  The reader can share in the pain, frustration and desperation as Emma helplessly watches her infant son's life slowly pass away- from the crying and the limpness of her suffering baby.  Emma's desperate last hope to reach out to another mother to feed her child shows the fearlessness and desperation of Emma.  Emma's reunion with her husband Christian, after the birth of her child is not the fairy tale reunion one would find in a typical romance or Disney movie.  In an unexpected turn, her husband is cold, distant and accusatory.  This emotional portrayal of a man is characteristic of what one would find in the historical period where this story takes place.  While it is true- that the raw emotions and unexpected coldness may not appeal to those readers looking for romance, this is a hallmark of Kirkpatrick- to deliver an entertaining story that is not predictable.  This is just what makes her fiction works stand out from the rest.

The author challenges the common social norms of the marital  relationship, authority and sense of duty.  Emma is portrayed as  enthusiastic, wishful and strong- willed woman.  She is willing to confront and change society's standard of the role of women.  Yet her traditional  sense of duty and loyalty ensures that she will obey and follow her husband's wishes.  There is no disrespect or refusal.  All the characters have distinct yet strong moral characters and a  strong sense of familial duty, and religious faith even though the expression is vastly different.

There is risk and danger involved- physical and emotional as well, yet hope drives Helga to pursue the course.   A map chronicles the path of their journey.  I found myself turning to the map in order to get a preview of how far into their journey that they were.  Yet, the story doesn't have the traditional happy ending as the author and her family are faced by disapointments and hardships. The reader follows Emma's life in the saga.  There is a sense that the reader follows along in real-time, the span of her life throughout these three books. Authentic touches such as the "Cast of Characters", the maps, the German and Chinook glossary and finally the "The Aurora Colony Articles of Agreement- 1867" add extra historical richness to this account.  As a blogger for WaterBrook publishers I received this book for the purpose of writing this review.  the opinions expressed are my own.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Lemon Bee and Other Peculiar Tales

A A collection of haunting short stories featuring elements of wondrous fantasy and gothic horror, redeemed by messages of hope. Patricia Lynn Dompieri's tales capture the surreal logic of dreams. Featuring keen perceptions shaped by fears and desires, these richly written narratives mix eerie imagery with insightful commentary. Poetic and descriptive, charged with deep symbolism and nightmarish elements, the stories make you think as well as
shudder. The characters described reach revelations that put a new perspective on life. The intensely imaginative and unpredictable storytelling is enhanced by mysterious illustrations by Michele Bledsoe.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

NIV Ragamuffin Bible

NIV Ragamuffin Bible: Meditations for the Bedraggled, Beat-up & Brokenhearted, is a good, reliable choice for a bible for anyone in need of extra inspiration and guidance.  It is a  themed bible published by Zondervan that includes the additional material of Brennan Manning.  Other than that attractive, parchment graphics featuring devotionals and meditations, there isn't too much that stands out visually, other than the graphics on the cover and removable dust jacket.  This subtle, unassuming bible features the new revised, gender inclusive 2011 NIV bible text. 

The text is easy to read, and standard with bold chapter titles. The reader will not have to squint to read it. There are no graphics or other visual elements other than the parchment styled text blocks. This is a devotional bible, rather than a study bible as it lacks even the basic chapter introductions or maps that even many minimalist bibles have. Because this bible does not have a concordance or chapter introductions, I would not recommend it for anyone as first or  their only bible.  But if you do already have a bible library, then the Ragamuffin bible would make a great addition.  Unlike most devotional bibles, the reflections and devotionals by Manning are truly inspirational and uplifting.  They are simple and brief, yet the messages are timeless.  There are messages on suffering, grace and vocation.  A mix of topics on faith and Christian life They deal with common issues, hardships and grief. All readers, men and women as well as all age groups will be able to get spiritual inspiration from Manning's writings unlike many contemporary writers whose devotions alienate groups of readers.

Other than the inclusion of the devotionals and quotes, I found this to be  a very minimalist bible.  I might have expected a little more visual appeal for a themed bible.  In that respect this bible is a little bit of a disappointment. Yet the content of Manning's writings make this a worthwhile bible, especially for anyone going through hardship or trials.  I just would feel added visual appeal, as well as a concordance and  book introductions would do this bible more justice.  Nevertheless it is a high quality standard bible with a beautifully designed cover that looks sturdy enough to stand up to daily use. Basically this is a almost like a pew bible with some devotionals in tribute to Brennan Manning.  Overall, I would endorse this bible  for the encouraging works of Brennan that are included. This bible takes poignant and relevant verses and passages and focuses on them in its reflections and devotions. The title "Ragamuffin" may be a little offsetting for some traditional readers and may even deter some readers.   I feel that this bible gives a minimalist, clean, contemporary feel- nothing to distract the reader from the word of God.  As a blogger I received this bible published by Zondervan for the purpose of writing this review.

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Christmas Quilt by Vannetta Chapman

The Christmas Quilt by Vannetta Chapman is the newest edition to the "Quilts of Love" series. Even though the novels in this series are written from different authors, the themes are similar as they center around courtship, marriage, friendship and a special, meaningful quilt.  In the very first pages we are introduced to Annie and her close friend, on their shared wedding day as they become sisters in law. The two innocent, young girls have high hopes for their lives as they anticipate new life in marriage and starting families of their own.  This story, a novel in the "Quilts of Love Series", Where Every Quilt Has a Story- is not only well written, with authentic local  details of the peaceful, Amish and Mennonite communities and lifestyle,  it is a refreshing piece of modern fiction that focuses on a solid story line leaving out the R- rated language and adult themes that have become so commonplace in most modern fiction and romance novels.  Common themes about family, romance and Amish are pretty common themes in contemporary Christian fiction. This book will certainly appeal to fans of Amish fiction- with a twist- the incorporation of a special quilt with a significance that goes beyond the quilt itself.  The sprinkling of German in the conversational dialogue of the characters is an added authentic detail that readers will enjoy.  This book will likely appeal to those readers who enjoyed  Disney movies and fairy tales with beautiful princesses and happy endings as a child.  Basically, this novel is like a grown up version of a fairy tale, where truth and honesty prevail- the story is honest and wholesome and the ending is a happy one.

The reader is introduced to the two heroines on their wedding day. Fast forward two years later, into the second chapter, like clockwork, Leah is seven months into a pregnancy and Annie is four and a half months along who spend their naïve, carefree lives together relishing upcoming motherhood.  Yet, some unexpected challenges are introduced into their simple, idealistic lives.

 One common  theme, that is found in many romance novels and Amish fiction, as well,  is also found in this book:  this story encourages the traditional,  antiquated, yet strongly held belief  in traditional societies that a woman's self worth and value is based on a man.  A woman's happiness is usually tied to a man and if she happens to be single, it is always her choice, (at least temporarily- until she comes to her "senses").  There is always a suitor to provide the heroine with a life of security, whose own life is on hold,  as he patiently waits for her approval and acceptance in marriage. Some modern, more educated readers might not appreciate the traditional values and traditional courting  themes represented by this storyline.

 Anyone who simply loves the significance of handmade quilts, will appreciate this new edition to the Quilts of Love series. There is true socio-cultural insight, as the author delves into the mind on traditional cultures and their perception of family and honor and morals.  Most of all, the gospel message of salvation is integrated into the story line. This book shares with the reader important life lessons.  Despite the picturesque, peaceful simple Amish setting, life does not always work as expected.  Leah experiences complications with her twin  pregnancy, pre- eclampsia, premature birth and c-section.  Modern life and tradition meet as well as merge. Her tiny babies require oxygen and other interventions in the neonatal unit.  Nevertheless, Leah and Annie's maintain their solid faith in God's will and purpose.  Despite the protective environment, the Amish community is fertile ground for a strong and deliberate faith as the character's draw on lessons from the bible to persevere even the most difficult challenges and fears. Just as jesus teaches the valuable lesson to become like children- the childlike, pure untainted faith of Leah and Annie shine through even when they don't understand everything.  In this complex modern world where many demand answers and control for security, these simple characters teach the reader much about faith and prayer and God's soverignity nature. Chapman's writing is poetic, and the characters are very likable.  Their moral personalities compliment each other overall.  An added cultural touch is the glossary of German words in the back.  This book would be a good choice for any reader who enjoys idealistic, fiction with a purpose.  This is a peaceful, relaxing book to read for those who want to escape the pressures of modern life or less than ideal circumstances.  As a blogger I received a copy of this book published by Abington Press. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Aloha Rose by Lisa Carter

Aloha Rose by Lisa Carter, is a well written novel certain to capture the reader in the first chapter.  From the very first pages the well developed heroine, with her vividly real, raw emotions,  Laney Carrigan, comes to life- and is certain to strike a chord with the reader. This story, a novel in the "Quilts of Love Series", Where Every Quilt Has a Story- is not only well written, with authentic local  details of the peaceful, tourist setting of Hawaii it is a refreshing piece of modern fiction that focuses on a solid story line leaving out the R- rated language and adult themes that have become so commonplace in most modern fiction and romance novels.  Common themes about reuniting with long lost biological family, family secrets and intrigue, relationship as as well as military life and its lifelong impacts,  will capture the interest of a varied readership.  This book would most likely appeal to those readers who enjoyed  Disney movies and fairy tales with beautiful princesses and happy endings as a child.  Basically, this novel is like a grown up version of a fairy tale, where truth and honesty prevail- the story is honest and wholesome and the ending is always a happy one. But one major difference is that the main heroine is not naïve or submissive, but strong,  intentioned and driven.

One all too common underlying belief, that is found in many romance novels and fairy tales, as well,  is also perpetuated in this book: at times this story encourages the common antiquated, yet strongly held theme in society that a woman's self worth and value is based on a man rather than her own self worth.  A woman's happiness is usually linked to a man and if she happens to be single, it is always her choice, (at least temporarily- until she comes to her "senses").  There is always a suitor around the corner as a fall-back option to provide the heroine with a life of security, whose own life is on hold,  as he patiently waits for her approval and acceptance in marriage. This book is not an exception as the end results in a religious conversion for Laney's suitor, and ends in a fairy tale "tropical wedding fantasy"- a Hawaiian themed wedding complete with ukulele wedding music, and tropical flowers as she lives happily ever after as she finds "her forever home at last with her wonderful, tall, dark and Hawai'ian cowboy". page 231. 

For those who appreciate ancestry and family trees, the authentic details of the ancestral quest will be easy to relate to.  For those readers whose lives have been personally touched by adoption, Laney's quest will have a personal connection.  And lastly, anyone who simply loves the significance of handmade quilts, will appreciate this new edition to the Quilts of Love series. The setting of Hawaii adds an original touch as the authentic details of culture and even clothing will be appreciated.  There is true socio-cultural insight, as the author delves into the mind on traditional cultures and their perception of family and honor and morals.  Most of all, the gospel message of salvation is integrated into the story line as Kai finds his heart changed and becomes a true believing Christian.. A special added touch is a Hawaiian glossary of words in the back of the book.  This book would be a good choice for any reader who enjoys idealistic, fiction with a purpose.  As a blogger I received a copy of this book published by Abington Press. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

The New Answers Book 4: Ken Ham

The New Answers Book 4: Over 30 Questions on Creation/ Evolution and the Bible by Ken Ham, general editor, is the newest edition to the Bible Answers series.  This collection of essays on topics about creation and evolution, in light of the bible are the perfect apologetic tool for educated Christians and students who wish to defend their faith.  Perfect for high school students, college students and laymen, these books will strengthen the faith of any reader who finds their faith is attacked.

This scholarly volume is simple enough that the layman or student can understand, yet sufficiently detailed to engage any educator or science professional.  Each question is answered in essay format- and is very thorough providing technical and detailed information based on scientific facts, sociological and archeological findings.  For example a question addressing the existence of dragons does into extensive detail about the evolutionary parallels of ancient creatures that fit the scientific descriptions of dragons in the bible and other ancient references.  Fossil evidence illustrates that such creatures did exist and were comparable to dinosaurs.  Photographs of dragons in art as well as photographs of fossils are provided for the reader to investigate and weight the evidence for himself rather than passively reading the information provided. The extensive scholarship contained in each article can stand the scrutiny of any secular college or university course. There is an issue addressing the issue of cavemen in light of biblical truth and genetics.  It is refreshing to see the idea of creation as presented by the bible can stand firm in light of science and that science: genetics, archeology and other disciplines support biblical creation.  There are questions and essays on earth age, young creation, the fossil record, canopy model, the flood, climate change, environmentalism, starlight models and the efficacy of GMOs.  It is obvious that these essays are scientifically advanced and in some cases technical- worthy for inclusion in technical scientific journals. 

This book is like a text- a complete course in of itself.  This volume as well as the first three volumes are essential reading for any student in anthropology or biology. The authority of this book and the scientific scholarship it represents is impressive.  The information contained in some of the answers to the questions presented require more than just a casual reading to assimilate the information.  The variety of contributors gives years worth of education, knowledge and work at the reader's disposal.  This is a valuable resource that belongs in every high school and university library.

The author provides theological background for this book as he explains that evolution and atheism in of itself is a religion as it is a set system of beliefs.  At times the tone is somewhat defensive in the final chapter, as the reader can sense Ken Ham's passion in ministering to atheists.  The foundations of evolution and its wide acceptance can be traced to atheistic assumptions and thought. Contrary to what atheists claim, their rigid acceptance of their atheistic belief system which rejects the idea of God, constitutes a religion.  Furthermore, Ken Ham explains, point by point, the inconsistencies of the atheist world view in that atheists accept social practices, morals  and norms that are biblical in origin. Using logic, Ham presents the logical inconsistencies of atheism as well as the pessimistic and hopeless nature of such a negative believe system in and open letter to all atheists. As a blogger for NLP I received a copy of this book published by Masterbooks and imprint of NLP for the purpose of writing this review.

New Leaf Publishing Group

Three volume set: Answers from Master Books

The Answers Book Volume 4

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Hanging Tree by Michael Phillip Cash

The new book, The Hanging Tree by Michael Phillip Cash is a fictional- historical horror piece.  This 73 page "novella" is significantly shorter than a traditional novel yet a bit longer than a short story, and can be completed in one sitting.  Incorporating  historical details of the mid-evil days of witchcraft, the author transports the reader into the past to the days of the witch hunts, witch trials and hangings. With authentic styled dialect, and  traditional characters reflecting the rigid and superstitious social norms of a past era, the reader is transported from the modern setting to the past. For example, the authentic details of midwifery and painful, complicated childbirth will leave readers wanting  even more historic details.  History enthusiasts as well as readers who thirst for authenticity, will appreciate the different time periods represented by the various spirits as well as the scene changes that transport the reader into different times.

  Modern day teenager, Arielle finds her fate mixed up with the mysterious, eclectic mix of spirits that inhabit a cursed tree.  In an ironic twist, the churchgoing folk and preacher are deemed as intolerant, superstitious, murderous  hypocrites, while the old witch is portrayed as wise, enlightened and misunderstood.  The townspeople turn against the old midwife, after the death of a mother during childbirth.  From that point on, every local mishap is blamed on the witch and witchcraft.  With her dying words, the righteous old witch releases a curse on the reverend, "I accuse thee... Not only that, I curse thee, thy children and thy grandchildren, and their children after that... Until you right this wrong, until you clear thy soul, thee and thine shall be cursed". Page 40. In a role reversal, where the religious and pagan community shift roles,  a witch takes on the role of moral authority as she meets justice against a man of the clergy. These spirits act as a protector for the teenaged girl. In turn, there is a redemptive element of mercy when the curse is lifted - showing even the most virulent and hateful of sins can be forgiven.  "A Harmond caused the curse, and a Harmond released the curse.... She risked her own life to save someone dear to me", the spirit of the witch proclaims as she finally finds peace in releasing the hatred and desire for revenge which held her as well as her targets prisoner. Page 74.  As an additional authentic touch, the "Author's Note" in the back of the book provides details about the "Hanging Tree" local legends and where to find the infamous tree. 

Although the backdrop of the story may seem stereotypical with two young teens on a date that has gone sour- a rebellious teenaged girl from a broken family, avoiding the advances of an aggressive boyfriend, the supernatural tale which transports the reader back in time is unique and unexpected.  As a blogger I receive this book for the purpose of writing this review.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

another dream

The air was stagnant; oppressive
The dark earthy scent wafted through the air.
Dust particles float listlessly in the blinding sunbeams that creaked through the rotted boards.
In the dim, moldy, cavernous space, where darkness contrasted with the noonday sun, oblong boxes, trunks and corrugated cardboard containers were haphazardly stacked in neglected cobwebbed corners.
Unwholesome seepage staining the floors, darkened black pools of tainted liquefied muck-
An eerie warehouse; these strange boxes containing corpses of various states of decay,
abandoned,  without explanation, nor answers.
freshly, unearthed ground, in mountainous heaps,
saturated as a quiet, forgotten, condemned, forlorn community coughed up its dead
Every house, and structure converted to a grim warehouse -
bodies slick, bloated and pungent;  corpses leathered and petrified; remains dry, parched, withered, brittle, and decomposed,
Remains, lifeless shells, empty husks, chaff,
in pieces, rests
Dust particulates drift aimlessly,
a flakey layer of soot,
slowly swirling, falling downwards, down to rest
an eerie snowfall,
coats the yellowed window pane
everything is buried with
Bone and dust-
only remains
rest in pieces

The Answers Book For Kids Volumes 5 & 6

The Answers Book For Kids Volumes 5 & 6 by Ken Ham & Bodie Hodge are the two newest volumes in the Master Books Answers series for children.  As with the previous volumes in the series, each volume is dedicated to a particular topic.  Each book can be read independently because they address specific topics in question and answer format.  These pocket sized books, with full color phtot0graphs and lively graphics rival the scholarship and quality of other mainstream books in the children's science genre.  The science and fact genre is increasingly popular for kids books as any school book fair or bookstore will testify.  The new trivia and fact books are especially popular with kids these days, in order to make learning fun.  The authors, Ham and Hodge integrate this popular genre in order to make learning bible truths fun.

The Answers Book for Kids Volume 5: 20 Questions from Kids on Space and Astronomy, is a 48
page, full color pocket sized book that features 2o questions on this popular subject from actual kids.  Each two page spread is dedicated to the question and answer of a popular question that will appeal to young readers.  Each question is presented by a child ranging from age 6 to 11.  On one page, the young reader is presented with the question and introduced to the child that particular question is from, with a photo, name and age.  The reader can relate to a question that actually has a name and face to it.  The following page addresses the answer in a few simple paragraphs using a relevant biblical verse as a spring board.  Photographs draw in greater interest.

While the questions presented by the featured children may not be exactly what your child would ask, they are similar to what many children have wondered and can be adapted to the universal questions that all children seem to as at one time or another.  For example on page 14, the question presented by 9 year old Becca, " Is it possible that there are living things in space?" is a variant of the ever popular question- "Do aliens exist?" which parents are more likely to actually hear.  In fact both my children ages 7 and 12 have rephrased this question asking whether aliens are real or exist rather than the more scientifically accurate, but less likely wording "Is it possible that their are living things in space".  The stereotypical alien depictions near the answer are accurate pop cultural depictions of aliens that children most likely have in mind when asking the question as to whether aliens exist.  I feel the way this question is worded in this book might be a little deeper than how most young kids would actually ask this question. Yet, as a parent, I can see why this question was phrased in this way as the insertion of the word  "alien" in the question most likely would yield a more negative response in contrast to rephrasing it as "living things" which gives a broader, more open ended response.  Eleven  year old Sean's question about the "waters above the expanse" of the book of Genesis, is one that most likely will  never be asked by most young children.  Nevertheless the answer is fascinating nonetheless, and will capture the interest of any young reader.  As far as the other question, basically the most popular space questions about planets, comets, stars and space are covered.  How many kids have asked the question "Will the sun blow up?" Finally there is a book to address it. It is refreshing to see simple, yet faithful and intelligent responses written for children.  this book is an essential tool for any parent who find themselves faced with the astronomy and space questions that children love to ask.  The back of the book has a helpful "appendix"  of yearly meteor showers as well as a planet fact sheet.  This book makes a good supplemental tool for an astronomy lesson in science.

Volume 6: 22 Questions from Kids on Babel and the Ice Age is the perfect companion to any
geography or geological science lesson.  While some of these questions are unlikely to come from secular students specifically, especially the specific questions on the tower of Babel from the book of Genesis, they do overlap with many questions children naturally have about ancient history, different cultures, and the ice age.  For children curious about anthropology and archeology, this book presents satisfying and convincing answers to questions of curious kids about the ice age and about human ecology and cultures.  In addition to a large number of questions on the tower of Babel account from Genesis, there are questions concerning the origins of human languages, ethnicities, nationalities and civilizations.  There are also several questions about the widely conjectured ice age.  This book distinguishes fact from fiction, sorting myth and reality in the context of bible truth and archeology.  The ice age is a very popular theme in pop culture and especially kids' movies.  This eye opening book provides much needed truth to the facts of the ice age which are frequently distorted by evolutionary and secular bias.

All answers in these two volumes are provided in light of scripture as well as archeological evidence.  This book shows first hand that science and the bible are not mutually exclusive, giving much needed credibility for the bible to students, parents and educators alike. These books equip parents and educators to address the tough questions that curious kids have rather than stumbling to find an answer.  For older children that can read themselves these books will hold their attention providing entertainment while sharing biblical truth. I would like to see a compendium of all six volumes available in one single, larger volume.   I received these books as a blogger for New Leaf press, published by Masterbooks, an imprint of NLP. 

Useful Links and Resources:

Youtube trailer Answers 5 & 6

Volume 5 available at NLP

Volume 6 available at NLP

Available at B&N

Available at B&N Volume 6

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Cross by Rod Parsley

The new book, The Cross by Rod Parsley has a well defined theme and purpose: to illustrate the dangers of undermining the significance of the cross of Jesus Christ.  The idea of the cross, and its focused purpose in redeeming our salvation is both shameful and offensive to many Christians as well as secularists alike.  A dangerous modern trend, even in so called Christian churches is to reduce the presence of the cross in everyday life as well as worship. Parsley explains that" Calvary's cross is the place where God's unfanthomable provision intersects with our deepest and most basic need". page 28.  Yet this symbol is associated with shame and often left out in modern worship.  As the author mentioned the cross is seen as bad marketing.

With laser- like focus, Parsley brings to light the significance of the cross figuratively and literally both in general life and in worship.  Churches most of all are systematically erasing the cross from its teachings and imagery.  In fact, many modern churches don't even have a cross.  Nevertheless, to deny the cross, or to simply omit the cross passively is to deny a crucial tenant of Christian belief.  It results in a watered down Christianity or lukewarm faith.  This short easy to read book is focused and goes directly to the point.  Drawing on relevant anecdotes and Christian thinkers of the past, together with scripture, the author provides a wealth of information to make the reader aware of this silent poison that is infiltrating the Christian churches.  Poignant, bold illustrations of the cross, within the text serve to re-enforce visually, the importance of the cross itself.  I believe this book will be a wake up call especially for many modern Christians.  This book is part theology- part apologetic tool- in order to expose the dangerous modern trend of minimizing the cross.  As a blogger for Booketeria I received this book published by Charisma House for the purpose of writing this review.

The Reason For my Hope by Billy Graham

The Reason For my Hope: Salvation, is the newest book by Billy Graham.  Although having reached the  old age of 95, with his white hair, wizened features, and faded eyes, he does not simply write for the old, infirm, depressed or terminally ill. He communicates across the generations- for the young and old alike and everyone in between.  His timeless writing style is not dated as with many contemporary writers or preachers who go to great lengths to draw in the younger generation integrating popculture into their works.  The Reason For My Hope is not simply a memoir or autobiography, nor is it a last attempt to produce one more book.  The fact that Graham's portrait is on the cover, personalizes his message in that he is not simply preaching to other but sharing his personal faith, strength and motivation.  You get the impression that the very faith and thought processes that helped Graham to persevere are being shared with the reader in a personal and intimate reader.  With this book he really connects to the audience. This  is a book that contains wise advise for every reader at any stage of belief- from the seasoned life long bible believing Christian, to even the young seeker. This book sums up in compact form, the gospel message and its relevance to Billy Graham's life as well as each individual life.  This books gives much needed dignity and credibility to a long forgotten- previous generation. Not only that, this book presents the gospel and serves as a much needed apologetic tool in today's worth of myth and misconception.   He dispels commonly held myths and misconceptions about hell, Jesus and the second coming of Jesus. He takes the time to actually communicate to the reader how bible truths are relevant, and how damaging it can be to ignore biblical truth.

It can not be overemphasized that Graham's writing has a broad appeal to all readers without alienating any socio-economic sector.  The words and even his anecdotes are timeless- not dated in contrast to an ever-growing number of devotional books whose audience is either women or younger readers.  The irritating modern pop culture and media references, which serve to alienate many older readers or less prosperous readers- are left out of this his writings altogether, thankfully. This book will not disappoint you when you are expecting spiritual  direction in times of distress or even everyday life. If you find you are bellyaching because you burned your husband's dinner, or the grass stain won't come out of the soccer uniform, or if missed an appointment for your pedicure, or your favorite coach bag sold out before you reached the mall, then this book might not hold your attention as this author does not commiserate with your trivial issues.  What you need is a fluffy, superficial, condescending, feel- good, women's devotional book with an image of an overpriced latte or a photo of a quaint Martha Stuart-esque vase of garden blooms. You won't find daily devotionals focused on spilled latte, long black Friday lines, or finding time to tote kids to soccer or cracked iphone screen related woes.

Billy Graham is a well known figure by religious and the secular world alike. His writing is like a spiritual compass, allowing the reader to focus on ultimate priorities with out becoming sidetracked by trivialities.  There is some comfort in knowing that he, as the author, takes time to ponder the truths of eternity and mortality and that he takes the time to meditate on the basic timeless truth of God. This is a book that goes back to the basics and foundations of faith.  Ironically this book is the perfect outreach to deliver the good news while at the same time, re-enforcing one's faith in biblical truths.   His words of strength give greater voice and credibility to the words of the bible in a world that worships the media, materialism, culture and greed. In sum- this book presents the complete gospel message- the Good News for salvation. As a blogger for booksneeze, I have received this book published by Thomas Nelson in exchange for writing this review. My opinions are my own.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Wayfinding Bible NLT

The Wayfinding Bible- Helping You Navigate God's Word in the New Living Translation is a newly published theme bible from Tyndale.  This aviation- travel themed bible features the easy to understand, modern NLT.  This makes sense as this bible is targeted mainly for new bible readers or those who are largely unfamiliar with the bible. I have seen far too many beginner bibles published in hard to read KJV or with the NKJV.  It is about time that a starter bible is appropriately presented in the faithful yet clear NLT.

As far as the graphics- the minimalist cover depicts a modern graphic image to appeal today's on the go modern generation. Integrating the ever popular travel or tourist theme- this bible designates or prioritizes books and passages in order of importance by using three travel themed classifications: flyover, direct and scenic routes.  This helps the reader to get an optimized view of the bible- ranging from a simpler broad flyover perspective or a more in-depth scenic perspective.  For those who find a traditional bible overwhelming this niche idea is one solution to navigating the bible. Additionally, full color, bold graphics, easy to read font and color photographs add greater visual appeal to draw the reader to the bible text. Nevertheless  I additional photographs and color graphics would make this bible even better.  On the down side, there are many pages with just white space and text only and no graphics whatsoever; many readers are likely to just skip over chunks of scripture. This might encourage new readers especially to skip over large parts of the bible as seemingly unimportant.

 For those new to the bible entirely, the "flyover" reading plan will give a quick and greater overall perspective without overwhelming the reader.  For those who want a more complete study, the direct approach is best.  For those who want even greater depth, and are willing to devote more time, the scenic route gives a better experience. I think all three options are good as they serve different purposes.  Just like a map or GPS, the bible always points you to your next reading depending on your navigation choice- flyover, direct or scenic. It gives the reader a glimpse ahead.  For new bible readers, the text directs you to a specific page number primarily in addition to the bible passage reference. And as with any travel experience there are stopovers such as sidetrips and other points of interest to capture your attention for an even greater experience.

Helpful unique bible features include the "itinerary", "points of interest" and "side trips", which are additional resources that bible students and readers can return to as a reference for important topics about Christian life, bible concepts and even theology.  The "thru-hike" is similar to a yearly bible reading plan and may prove to be useful for regimented individuals who prefer a rigid reading plan. Overall this bible can be adapted to a number of reading styles and preferences- depending on your time and dedication-giving it a broad appeal without leaving anyone out.  In other bibles, these additional features would either be omitted or would simply be relegated to an appendix, but in keeping with the travel theme these extra helps are prioritized and depicted in a simple to understand analogy. And for those readers  experienced with reading the bible- this new themed bible offers a refreshing new perspective to reinvigorate your bible reading.  As a bible reader, the only thing I did not prefer was the fact that the routes were labeled by a page number.  I believe a specific bible reference would have been more appropriate. The three varied colored navigation arrows with page numbers don't make as much sense intuitively for anyone who is familiar with the bible. Having the verse or passage in the label instead of a page number would make more sense. This proprietary colored arrow system identified by page numbers rather than by verse, makes this study strategy difficulty to adapt to other bibles.  It would be interesting to see this bible published with an actual "itinerary" styled foldable map with just the three reading plans alone so that the reader could refer to the separate map while reading the bible along side.  I have been a bible reader for over twenty years- even before my college days.  This new bible is now among one of my favorites that I will use for my own devotional readings and study. As a blogger for Tyndale I received this bible for the purpose of writing this review.

Wayfinding Bible Trailer

Choosing a Bible Version

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Messiah: Origin - Mark Arey, Kai Carpenter, Matt Dorff

The new graphic novel, Messiah: Origin - Mark Arey, Kai Carpenter, Matt Dorff is the newest edition by the producers of the graphic novel, Revelation. This comic- styled graphic novel covers the early life of Jesus with beautiful, stylized artwork.  Unlike other comic book adaptions of the bible, this work is not a paraphrase, but includes word for word actual translated bible text.  The strength of this graphic novel is that not only does it tell the bible account in pictoral form, but actual bible text is used rather than a simplified summary or paraphrase.  This book takes scripture to a new level with its poignant, emotional images together with the actual bible account of Jesus' early years. This is not simply a fact by fact story telling of the early life of Jesus.  This book visually depicts the first chapter of the gospel account of John, as retold in the "prologue".  Anyone who has ever read this account knows that John 1:1-18 is usually left out of traditional bible story books, but is beautifully portrayed here in this graphic novel.  An abstract spiritual account is reinforced with imaginative artwork alongside the text.  This book is both a work of art and a spiritually uplifting inspirational account bringing to life the biblical account of Jesus' first years before public ministry began. For those who meditate on the bible's truths- this is a work that can be integrated in prayer and personal bible study.  The graphic liberties taken by the artists portray Jesus and the other biblical heroes in a more realistic yet theatrical way than traditional cartoon art of Jesus.  With the rough, quick brush strokes, the artistic depictions seem more real than the typical cartoonish illustrations you see in other illustrated bibles or comic reproductions. This book is not simply an attempt to "dumb down" the bible to make it appealing for kids or teens or young adults.  This is a serious piece of work written for anyone of any age, who wants a deeper connection with the bible.

 The only downside- if I had to name a downside to this book is that it is so limited- in that it only covers up to the point of Jesus' baptism.  It almost seems incomplete in the sense that it only focuses on the early years. What would make this even better is if it included the entire account of Jesus' life in one volume.  The title page indicates that this book is "Volume !" which is not indicated on the actual cover of this book.  I believe that the minimalist title "origin" makes it clear enough that this graphic novel only covers Jesus' early years.  I anticipate that other editions will be completed sometime in the future just as with any serial comic book series or graphic novel series.  The fact that Revelation was actually the first book published by the writers may seem out of order or confusing to some readers.  Nevertheless as with the ever popular Star Wars movies- the movies or stories were produced out of order starting with the most recent chronologically then later newer editions covered the pre-quell era.  Personally I like everything in one single volume and don't like to read or watch anything that comes in multiple episodes, volumes or parts.  As a blogger for booksneeze I received this book published by Zondervan publishers.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Take Time to be Holy by Samuel Logan Brengle

Take Time to be Holy by Samuel Logan Brengle, edited by Bob Hostetler is a new pocket sized 365 day daily devotional book.  Despite its small size, it contains hefty spiritual food with the classic inspirational  daily tid-bits featuring the writings of Samuel Logan Brengle of the Salvation Army.

Unlike other niche devotional books in the saturated devotional genre- these writings will have a broad appeal to all readers without alienating any socio-economic sector.  The devotionals are timeless- not dated in contrast to an ever-growing number of devotional books whose audience is
either women or younger readers.  The modern pop culture and media references, which serve to alienate many older readers or less prosperous readers- are left out of this volume, thankfully. This book will not disappoint you when you are expecting encouragement in times of distress or even everyday life. This book helps those who are enduring really difficult times, to endure and persevere as well as those facing day to day life.   But, if you find you are bellyaching because you burned your husband's dinner, or the grass stain won't come out of the soccer uniform, or if missed an appointment for your pedicure, or your favorite coach bag sold out before you reached the mall, then this book might not hold your attention as this author does not commiserate with your trivial issues.  What you need is a fluffy, superficial, condescending, feel- good, women's devotional book with an image of an overpriced latte or a photo of a quaint Martha Stuart-esque vase of garden blooms. You won't find daily devotionals focused on spilled latte, long black Friday lines, or finding time to tote kids to soccer or cracked iphone screen related woes.  The anecdotes and stories are either based on scripture or are more classic in nature.  At most a personal anecdote takes 2 or 3 sentences- and is usually broad enough as to not alienate any readers.  For example, Brengle uses a brief one liner personal anecdote as a springboard to communicate a spiritual truth when he explains "When my friend in New York sails for Liverpool, how do I know that he has arrived safely? I know it by the cablegram he sends back to me", and likewise he is aware of the presence of Jesus by the Holy Spirit sent to all believers.  As can be seen in the daily entry- the anecdote is quick and to the point.  Unlike many modern devotional writers, the author does not drone on an on for paragraphs, about a personal anecdote, such as a family vacation, dinnertime stress, blackfriday shopping stress or some other "stress" that simply serves to reinforce that the reader's circumstances may be less than ideal by comparison. 

As with other modern devotional books, this book is simple and easy to read.  Each daily devotional is one small page with a few very short paragraphs around a verse and a theme.  This quick approach makes this book easy even for a busy lifestyle or for those too overwhelmed or burdened to devote to a more lengthy devotional.  Topics include faith, Christian life and lifestyle and other timeless topics that still hold true today as they did in bible times as well as the 1800s and early 1900s of Brengle's lifetime.  The padded cover and the format of this book is peaceful and simple, and suitable for a bedside table or even a purse. That pages are thick and sturdy suitable too stand up to daily use.I found this cover to be reminiscent of the ever popular modern classic "Jesus Calling" published by Thomas Nelson.  As a blogger for Tydale I received a copy of this book for the purpose of writing this review. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Judas Goat by Perry Stone

With its vivid, embossed cover depicting the close up of two weathered, rough horns, The Judas Goat is a newly published by Perry Stone.  This timely book focuses on betrayal. This book delivers the truths of the gospel from the perspective of the problem of betrayal- something that many, if not all readers, are familiar with in at least one area of life.  As mentioned, betrayal by enemies is to be expected, but to be betrayed by those who are close- is extremely painful, and can sap the strength of anyone- emotionally, physically and spiritually. Whether you have been betrayed by an enemy, coworker, relative or even your church- this book is for you.

This inclusive book is well rounded, starting with a spiritual and historical background in the bible of betrayal.  The weary,  apathetic, angry reader will find spiritual motivation and nourishment from Stone's words.  Written for a modern generation, the author takes a subject close to home for many readers, and addresses it - empowering even the most angry and apathetic of readers into action and faith.

Not many readers- secular and religious alike, may realize that the bible has an abundance of wisdom, stories and anecdotes about betrayal.  Most of the biblical heroes have been victims of betrayal as well and scripture has much to teach everyone about the facts of betrayal and how to use it.  Stone gleans every bit of biblical truth as well as sociological information about the concept of betrayal for the reader to get a better grip on understanding betrayal and facing it in day to day life. There are important lessons- difficult, yet empowering at the same time- about forgiveness and sin.  This is not a book that is simply written to tickle the ears of its listeners to use Paul's New Testament terminology. This book will give the reader insight into betrayal and the strategy of the Judas Goat- and how betrayal works. The author educates the reader into the subtle strategies of Satan that are subtle and destructive. Yet this book doesn't stop there as it also covers the topics of confession and restoration. This is not a self help book but rather a life changing book.  It is an entire curriculum and life changing book combined into one volume.

As a blogger for the Booketeria I received this book published by Charisma House for the purpose of writing this review.

YOUTUBE trailer

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Adventure Bible Storybook written by Catherine DeVries

The Adventure Bible Storybook written by Catherine DeVries and  illustrated by Jim Madsen is a newly published book of bible stories for young children.  Having read many children's bible storybooks, I feel this new edition stands out most for its beautiful full color illustrations and the audio CDs. There are many children's bibles and bible storybooks on the market.  Some children's bible story books consist of simply drawn washed out, pastel cartoons or line cartoons.  This book contains richly colored modern artwork which will capture the attention of children of all ages.  As seen with many bible storybooks for young children, the stories in this volume are simplified, and brief.  While they are based on actual  bible stories, they are  paraphrased.  Narrative dialog is added to make it read more like a story. The oversimplification and story telling style makes it appropriate for very young children.  Yet this is a bible storybook that children will eventually outgrow as they grow older, and in need of greater spiritual fuel- in contrast to an actual bible adapted for children.

 Also contained with this deluxe set are two disks of audio CDs containing the text of the bible stories. The stories are complete with wonderful sound effects and music. It is not simply a reading of text alone. This reinforces that material making it more convenient and as well as entertaining with multimedia.  My seven year old enjoyed following along with the bible storybook and audio cd at the same time.  In fact this is a good learning tool.  This learning style is used in schools as well and my child naturally took to  following the CD and book without any instruction.  This element of interaction encourages young children in a new way to read the or in this case, listen to stories of the bible.  Basically you can take this CD and put it in any computer or CD player for children of all ages to hear the bible stories.

 Strict bible purists may not appreciate the fact that actual bible scripture is not used in this bible story book. Some liberties are taken with the narratives t make them more child friendly.  And some theological issues are raised for example in the story where Jesus is baptized, the "Adventure Discovery" states that some people are baptized as babies.  While this is in align with Catholic or Lutheran theology and sacrament rituals, this is inconsistent with biblical teaching.  This is enough to alienate parents and educators who believe strictly in bible teaching.  Perhaps this is an attempt at the ecumenical movement to make this bible storybook more inclusive to mainstream denominations- but in doing so it waters down the truth.

 For each story, a corresponding bible passage is referenced but the actual bible text passage is not included. Yet there is a memory verse at the end of each story.  The small scale of the book makes it a perfect size for smaller hands.  The artwork is vivid and poignant.  In contrast to the simplistic stories- the artwork for Jesus on the cross is graphic and powerful.  The unique artistic use of perspective communicates the powerful message.  What an unexpected surprise in a children's bible. Nevertheless this bible story book is more appropriate to by read by parents and adults to younger children.  Overall, this bible is a good choice for its powerful artwork and its bible stories.  For theological purists, this may not be the best choice for their children as the message of scripture is watered down a bit for children. As a blogger for Booksneeze I received this book published by Thomas Nelson for the purpose of writing this review. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What Are You Afraid Of by Dr. David Jeremiah

What Are You Afraid Of is bestselling author & speaker, Dr. David Jeremiah's timely and newest book addressing modern society's greatest fears.  In a spiraling downward economy of job loss and foreclosure, with cancer, depression and illness on the rise, Dr. Jeremiah reassures the reader that in all his years as a pastor, studying the bible and ministering to people, he has "yet to find a fear for which God does not have an answer.  And the reason is simple: God Himself is the answer to all our fears". (page xii)

Systematically, Jeremiah addresses the most common fears one by one: disaster, disease, debt, defeat, loneliness, rejection, danger, depression, death and even fears of God. The prosperity gospel and false prosperity teaching have failed countless people as they continue to suffer and have no answers.  The modern phenomenon of  prosperity teaching does not address the problems that believers really face and many are left unprepared and abandoned to face life's challenges.  The author addresses the shortcomings and dangers of the false incomplete teachings of the prosperity message. It is as if Dr. Jeremiah has to come to the rescue of a mislead society, and redirect them to God's promises that have been long forgotten in the wake of modern false doctrines and values.

This book will not disappoint you when you are expecting encouragement in times of severe distress. This book specifically helps those who are enduring really difficult times, to endure and persevere. The author address real issues- job loss, terminal illness, grief and loss. This book is designed to help those who are suffering from extreme circumstances.   If you are bellyaching because you burned your husband's dinner, or the grass stain won't come out of the soccer uniform, or if missed an appointment for your pedicure, or your favorite coach bag sold out before you reached the mall, then this book isn't for you.  What you need is a fluffy, superficial, condescending, feel- good, women's devotional book with an image of an overpriced latte or a photo of a quaint Martha Stuart-esque vase of garden blooms. If you feel that your wealth and status and health are indicators of your spiritual faith or obediance then prepare to have your narrow world view challenged.  But, if you truly suffer from life's heartaches, and are overwhelmed with uncertainty and anxiety then this book with its piercing, fast paced, red and bright motion blurred cover is for you.

Jeremiah disseminates truth in an easy to understand style that communicates to every reader. He gleans every story about extreme suffering and faith from the bible from the old testament and even the new- showing how the God's interventions are just as applicable to each and every reader. I can not say enough how this book is written for those in desperate need.  This book is worth reading twice and maybe even three times.  It is worthy of a bedside table, or to keep in your car for easy access right next to the bible. Get out your highlighter, your pen and post it notes- as you will certainly want to mark up important passages, quotes and biblical truths from this book.  After reading this book, and really meditating on the biblical truths communicated, one can feel a renewed sense of empowerment to live a selfless life style.  Even apathetic readers who have given up hope may even find motivation to persevere. I think every Christian )and even secular readers) should read this book.  If you are looking for bible based motivation and a relief while enduring extreme dire circumstances in a heartless world that centers in  materialism, selfish ambition and competition, then this book is perfect.

This book is the perfect spiritual salve for those experiencing intense pain and grief!!!  This is a book to read and return to- it won't collect dust on a book shelf. As a blogger for Tyndale I received this book for the purpose of writing this review.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

From Death to Life

The Physiology and Spirituality of a Zombie

Decaying, putrefied flesh, dead necrotic tissue, dangling gangrene infested limbs.... glassy, foggy lifeless orbits, devoid of life- a cold, pungent corpse is apparently is re-animated by an unknown force or biological drive.......

The undead, otherwise known as zombies, are everywhere in popular culture: books, television, and movies.  But, you need not go to the theater to see the living dead- they are closer than you realize...... 

The introduction of tainted biological fluid must contaminate the host victim.  Most commonly the initial contamination is introduced by means of a flesh wound such as that which may come from a bite or scratch from a infected individual.  Contamination  rarely occurs in the healthcare setting, but when it does it is usually  inadvertently through a needle stick or contact with bodily fluids during lab testing.  As with any virus or contagious illness, there is a period of incubation in which the victim appears asymptomatic.  Nevertheless, while the person may feel physically healthy on the outside, the contagion works behind the scenes at the cellular level creating havoc in the body's systems.

The very first initial symptom appears to be an elevated temperature as the body attempts to fight off infection. This is reflected in a fever- mild at first. The fever does not respond to medication.  Lymph glands may be swollen and  tender to the touch.  Ironically, though the body gives the appearance of  having a cold or flu, instead of the usual fatigue and lethargy that accompanies the flu, the individual may experience an increase in energy.  The metabolism is elevated as the thyroid works harder to fight the illness. Blood pressure increases as well as the heart rate.  Respiration becomes more rapid. The body's  attempt to thwart the contagion is unsuccessful.   This may give the affected individual an initial burst of energy, deceptively it may appear as if the patient is on the recovery as the metabolism, thyroid and immune system  work in overdrive.  Not long after the early stages of infection, the victim will exhibit symptoms similar to hyperthyroidism.  This will include increased appetite, anxiety, mild aggression, sleeplessness and intolerance to heat.  The mixed set of symptoms that follow the initial fever may mask the extent of internal damage caused by the contagion and often lead to a false diagnosis.

As the contagion   circulates within the bloodstream, all body organs and tissues are eventually affected, from the cellular level to the organ systems.  As the infection spreads, the effect on rapidly dividing cells is the first obvious sign.  Similar to the effects of radiation sickness or chemotherapy  in with the invading contaminant indiscriminately attacks the rapidly regenerating cells: healthy and non healthy alike, the same is true of the contagion. The rapidly dividing cells  of the scalp, mucus membranes and nerves, are the first to succumb to the infection as it begins its indiscriminately attack all cells in a similar way.  Hair will become brittle, thin, dull and some loss of hair will occur. Skin cells will become dry, raw and irritated.  Skin will become irritated, cracked and dry.   Mucus membranes lining the mouth, esophagus and stomach will become irritated, raw and slough off- causing irritation and tenderness  at first, and thereafter extreme gastrointestinal discomfort and bleeding.  As the body systems are affected and subsequently destroyed, pain and fatigue will set in.  Nerves will be affected in a similar fashion as ALS.  As the nerves progressively become damaged and die, loss of function is experienced.  This is first observed as a heightened sensitivity in the form of pain, tingling, involuntary twitches and numbness.  As nerves completely die, there is a loss of feeling altogether.  Yet, as opposed to ALS or traditional paralysis from CNS injury, the dying cells and cell tissue actually physically die- they experience cell death and become necrotic- resulting in furthering the infections.  As the body organs and fluids becomes septic, and the toxicity spreads throughout the body,  the body tissues decay giving the characteristic of the typical sterotypical zombie appearance: mottled necrotic skin that is easily bruised, injured and infected.  Internally, the organs cease to function as the cells become necrotic and  die.  Internal bleeding occurs throughout the body and the old, putrefied, congealed, thick, sludge-like black blood and dead cells is eliminated by the body from every orifice imaginable as wastes.  The slick, putrefied mix of wastes gives the zombie its characteristic decayed odor and disheveled, unclean appearance.

Needless to say, the brain does not escape damage from infection.  Apparently the higher functions of the brain are the first to experience the effects of impairment.  Initially the mental impairment is subtle.  Complete memory loss and purposeful  thought is eventually lost as the brain tissue becomes necrotic and shrinks.  Eventually all intentional and purposeful activity and thought is gone, leaving only a fragment of the functioning hind brain.  Mentally the person's capacity is  analogous to a persistent vegetative state, yet the body is inexplicably  animated and continues to physically function by minimum instinct and nerve impulses similar to that exhibited by lower life forms.  As a result, the individual is automated only by a basic instinct and basic physical sparks of electrical impulses.  Clinically and biologically, the person may be defined as alive simply because the brain is functioning at the most basic level.  Nevertheless, it might be argued that such an individual is legally dead in that  brain death has occurred in that there is no possibility of recovery and there is no purposeful brain activity.  An EKG most likely would reveal a flat line. Obviously putrefaction and contamination of the body's organs renders them useless for the purpose of donation.  The senseless aggression and bestial behavior makes the infected a danger to society, and therefore require containment.  The time line of the progression of the illness varies. 

Spirituality of the Living Dead:

A necrotic, shrunken brain- filled with useless, putrefied nonfunctioning brain matter. A stinking mush of dead cells and puss- incapable of thought whatsoever.  Nerve synapses are dead and destroyed.  The head is simply a shell that houses a walnut sized brain stem- functioning with minimal  activity.  Movement is the product of purposeless reflexes, and synaptic pulses guided by basic instinct.  As far as a mind- anything that resembled a personality is long gone.  Just as the body eventually deteriorates, the mind also disintegrates.  As far as the spirit?  The soul?  That no longer exists either.

An argument can be made that the concept of the living dead is nothing new. In fact there are a number of references to the living dead in the bible. A passage from Ephesians, a new testament book written by Paul, the apostle, states  "As for you, don't you remember how you used to exist? Corpses, dead in life, buried by transgressions, wandering the course of this perverse world.  You were the offspring of the prince of the power of the air- oh, how he owned you, just as he still controls those living in disobedience.  I'm not talking about outsiders alone; we were all guilty of falling headlong for the persuasive passions of this world; we all have had our fill of indulging the flesh and mind, obeying  impulses to follow perverse thoughts motivated by dark powers.  As a result, our natural inclinations led us to be children of wrath, just like the rest of human kind."  Ephesians 2: 1-3 (the Voice NT).

 Zombies- the living dead:  A body, reanimated, disgusting, grotesque and barbaric- alive yet devoid of the essential part that makes it human.  I don't know who hasn't heard of zombies- they are the subject of many horror movies. But to see one of these creatures, there was a time that all I needed to do was look in the mirror. Ironically I was no different from the grotesque manifestations that I would watch in my television screen- I too was among the undead- physically alive, walking, breathing, yet dead in spirit.

ONE FINAL WORD (about Zombies) 

in·ac·ces·si·ble  defined as not accessible, unable to be reached or understood.

An image from my past flashes  across my  mind as I am transported back in time- almost thirty years earlier. I remember tiptoeing and pulling down from the top shelf- a larger sized, dusty, forbidden, neglected volume,  the bible.  Curious, I opened the book and read.

Contrary to the commonly held stereotypes that the bible is too difficult to read and  irrelevant in modern society - the words were clear, easy to grasp and eye opening.  I wondered to myself as to why this book was apparently hidden in the bookshelf, squeezed between other books and out of my reach. I wondered why no one told me about this book, or its message.  It is incredible how many households have a copy of this life changing book, yet it simply collects dust on a book shelf unread.  Countless people, simply dismiss this life changing book with hardened  hearts are hardened, just like the listeners in Jesus’ day whose closed ears and closed hearts could not understand the parables that Jesus shared.  On that day, looking back, I compare myself to the parable of the seed that fell upon the footpath and quickly snatched away by the birds or chocked by thorns and weeds in Matthew 13:4.  The message was lost to me.

That day, I was not saved. That day,  I did not receive the Good News.  I did not learn about eternal life or God's love and grace.   The seeds were quickly snatched away, like the seeds on the hard, barren footpath.   I slowly closed the bible in despair- placing it carefully back on the shelf, feeling dejected.... dismissing it as yet another book filled with fables and fairy tales, returning to my life as usual saying to myself, thinking that if it were true, then certainly someone would have told me about it. 

That was not my day of salvation.  It was not to come for a number of years.  Needless to say, I admit I ended up swiping that bible, and taking it for my own use years later.  And I still have it to this day. 
Yes, it is true, I used to be among the living dead, until the day I was saved


Saved from death
Fast forward a few years to the day when I made an important decision that changed my life. That day started like any other day. It is no understatement to say I had some difficult and awkward years when I was young. .During my teenaged years, my physical and social deficits became more pronounced at a most inopportune time of life when appearance and social skills are paramount for normal positive social interaction. As I matured, my physical appearance embarrassed me to such an extent that I lived in a constant state of abject discomfort and anxiety that someone would tease me. Graceless, indelicate and overgrown, I was isolated and frequently tormented by my peers. I was made fun of, humiliated and embarrassed. While these problems may pale in comparison to the world’s social injustices and inequities, this was my life and my world! It was all that mattered to me at the time in my own selfish, self- centered world.

Outside I was quiet, yet within I was sad, angry, bitter and jealous. Every night I would cry myself to sleep. I could pass half the night awake in bed feeling sorry for myself. In my dreams I lived out detailed fantasies of revenge. I doubted that even God existed because if He really did, I was sure that I had been abandoned by God.

The irony is that despite the anger and jealous feelings I harbored within, I deluded myself into thinking I was morally superior. In fact I believed everyone else had wronged me in my own mind. I was so puffed up with pride about my own goodness when I compared myself with all those other “degenerates” in school that dated, went to dances, listened to music or dressed in the latest trends.  One day my misery came to an end. I vaguely recall a girl who crossed my path and befriended me. We talked, or rather she talked, and I “listened” during lunch hour in the cafeteria. I was actually more engrossed in inhaling my fries and finishing off my burger, than listening to her. She could not have missed my apathy. She dutifully and in a perfunctory manner went over, laboriously page by page, a small booklet of which I barely glanced indifferently. But one statement of all the others stood out: she called me a sinner- as she explained how everyone was a sinner and that no one was righteous in God’s eyes. I immediately took offense. How dare she insinuate that I was a sinner! She did not know who she was speaking to, obviously. Nor could she know about my sufferings and misery. As far as I was concerned I never sinned!
Looking back I remember the parable told by Jesus about how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, and that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.  A more formidable obstacle comes to mind- pride and self righteousness! How much easier it is for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than a self righteous, stubborn, self pitying young girl  to humble herself spiritually and enter the kingdom of heaven. Yet, it did indeed happen and I was saved!

I tried to put the entire conversation out of my mind. It was no use.  The statement echoed in my soul, “For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory if God”. (Romans 3:23) I pondered in my mind the implications of that statement. What if it was true? What if I was actually separated from God? I lost all track of time. For days and maybe even weeks, I thought feverishly about that message.  Oh how I wished that my comfortable vague ideas about God and heaven had not been challenged. I had grown accustomed to living comfortably within my own world with my self righteous attitude and self pity. I had to humble myself spiritually and admit that I was a sinner.  Despite the hardships of my life, I still was guilty of sin in my actions and most of all my thoughts. My feelings of revenge and anger and envy were sinful! My fictitious fantasies were impure and sinful in God’s eyes. I had to make a choice and I had to make a change. It was a real decision. I decided to accept God’s friendship and gift of grace, admitting that I was guilty of sin. In that moment I had made the decision. There was no turning back. The message of the gospel and of salvation was truly good news. “God demonstrated his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8 For the first time in my life I felt truly happy and hopeful, as if an enormous burden had been cast off. The evil feelings I harbored within were a burden all my life, and it was liberating to release those negative feelings and to have God as my friend.

I still remember how I used to exist, as a corpse, dead in life, buried by my transgressions, wandering the course of this perverse world.  I was the offspring of the prince of the power of the air- oh, how he owned me,  living in disobedience, guilty of falling headlong for the persuasive passions of this world; having had my fill of indulging the flesh and mind, obeying  impulses to follow perverse thoughts motivated by dark powers. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, parts of the character of Beth are autobiographical, except of course the talking lemon.   Ephesians 2: 1-3 (the Voice NT).  I once was dead, but now I am alive, born again- saved. Because I have heard the word of truth- and received  the good news of salvation- and because I have believed in the One who is truth, marked with the Holy Spirit, who is promised as the guarentee, who frees and rescues all who belong to Him.