Friday, January 27, 2012

I thought I was in for another sleepness night- exausted, yet unable to sleep- filled with self pity, grief and anxiety.  It certainly looked like it was going to be another long night- to top off my days of worry and anxiety...lots of loose ends, pressed for time, and not enough hours in the day to do what I need.  I've been a bundle of high strung emotions and complaints. Grief counseling was suggested, and an unfilled RX sits somewhere in the stack of unfiled papers on my desk. These days I go to bed after dinnertime, wake at 12am or so and am up until morning. Around 5am I am finally able to sleep but by then it is time for work- a new day! I find that I must trudge through the day exhausted and drained.   My relationships suffer- I am not the easiest person to be around anymore.  I've think I've lost interest in some of my usual hobbies- writing, and reading, for example.  In my kitchen I still have a stash of goodies from Christmas-cookies, chocolate and gourmet popcorn- all untouched! In a former lifetime the entire load would have been eaten in two days.  My mouth is always dry, sticky, parched; my tongue swollen- yet I am too lazy to even get up and get a glass of water.  My toothbrush gathers dust.  I feel drained of energy.  The pressures of life: work and health issues- life in general-  are overwhelming. 

As I said, I thought I was in for another long, sleepless night.  In my despair and self pity there was nothing more I could do but to pray.  And then suddenly from no where I felt a bit of hope, and peace and thankfulness.  God did not take away my problems-they are still there.  But, sometimes God's answer to our requests and problems is simply "no", yet I was offered spiritual strength and peace. It is through trials and storms we gain spiritual strength and the ability to persevere. I've been shortsited- overcome in my own personal grief and anxiety.   Paul had the thorn in his side, that God chose not to take away and in his weakness he found strength.  When Jesus pleaded with God in Gethemane to take away his cup of suffering he was given strength and peace to proclaim, "not my will, but yours."  I have the spiritual strength to go on another day, and the peace to lay aside my worry and anxiety. God has the power to grant hope and change lives- God has been there for me in the past to pull me through and will do so now.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I am Second by By Dave Sterrett and Doug Bender, Forward by Colt McCoy

I am Second:Real Stories. Changing Lives. by By Dave Sterrett and Doug Bender, Forward by Colt McCoy is an inspirational new book containing short stories of real people who turned to faith in God to overcome issues such as addiction, terminal illness, injuries, crime, poverty and other challenges.  These short stories tell the true details of people who overcame the odds through faith in God and prevailed spiritually.  This inspiring book has a story that many readers can relate to: poverty, crime, greed, addictions, terminal cancer and depression.  These stories depict true suffering and true struggles and how ordinary people overcame through faith in Jesus which is available to all who believe.  For example, the story of a young woman who survived a shark attack and an amputation is featured.  Rather than give up, she persevered through faith and continued with her desire to surf.  Another woman faced terminal cancer.  Although there are no guarentees of a permanent cure, she is in remission, yet is prepared for the day when the cancer returns with full force.  Another man, a minister of a church faught with concealing his addiction to pornography and another couple faced the after affects of an affair.  A single mother had to overcome poverty, and had to suffer the pain of watching her son go hungry.  Yet, these people faced their crisis and temptations with faith.  And through the struggle found peace in faith. 

With this book is a full color insert featuring artistically posed photographs of the people whose stories are features as well as dramatic black and whote photos.  With each story, is a picture of the subject individual.  In many cases there is minimal effort to disguise the personal characteristic features, rather than conceal, they are highlighted.  For example, no attempt is made to conceal the wrinkled, stump of the young woman's amputated arm in the pohotographs, and in another, each and every tatoo of a man's covered body is visible.  Some of the individuals are presented in a pensive, reflexive posture- as a tribute to the pain and tough choices they have faced.  Others are depicted with proud and triumphant smiles and postures as a testament to what they have overcome.  There is great attention to the photography art included in the book- which will serve to make the book more appealing to modern readers.  After each story, is a link where the reader can find more inspirational stories.  The links allow the reader to interact with the stories over the internet.  Also, the message of salvation is not neglected in this book.  Any reader who finishes this book- cover to cover will get the good news of the gospel.  In a world full of selfish ambition, competion, and the divination of the self, this book teaches that we are truly second, to God who is first- and in that fact we may rejoice and find peace.  As a blogger for booksneeze, I recieved this book from Thomas Nelson for the purpose of writing this review.

Monday, January 16, 2012

365 Mornings with Jesus

365 Mornings with Jesus, a daily devotional book for 2012, is written especially for women by a team of inspirtational Christian women.  This book contains one short themed daily devotional based on a different bible verse for each day.  Each devotion is written by one of the team of inspritional writers who draw upon their experiences of motherhood and marriage and apply them to eternal biblical principles.  It will bring inspiration to many young moms, stressed out from the pressures of motherhood and homemaking to see how their experiences can actually apply to the bible.  For a typical carefree mother who faces the ordinary challanges presented by motherhood, this book is certain to provide relevant inspiration.

 For those women readers who are not young moms, it may be difficult to relate to the number of motherhood related anecdotes and themes. There is an overwhelming number of children themed anecdotes that women who are either not mothers whether by choice or circumstance, will find difficult to relate to.  Unless they are young married mothers, I believe that many readers will feel that this book is simply not relevant to their season in life.   This lighthearted devotional may not provide the relief and comfort that so many readers may need when going through serious life challanges such as terminal or chronic illness, loss & grief, unemployment or depression.  Rather, this devotional may even further the grief, isolation and dissatisfaction that women may harbor in less than ideal life circumstances. Furthermore, the teachings are relatively passive, as indicate in one of the early January devotionals explaining that sins will happen in a passive manner using an analogy of a leaf passively floating in a river, following the current.  It seems to imply that faith consists of passively letting life happen, regardless of our duty to make difficult choices, and then simply to persevere, accept forgiveness and move on.  There is very little focus on the biblical concepts of guilt which lead to repentance.

There is certainly nothing wrong with drawing from personal experiences of motherhood and marriage when writing a devotional- it can be quite effective as an outreach method for a target audience- namely young moms.  In fact, Jesus used personalized circumstances tailored to his audience when he taugh in parables- using analogies with fishing, farming, finance and even parenthood.  Yet, the parables were varied and intended for a wide audience, while these devotions are best suited to a targeted readership. This devotional is best described as a good  introduction to Christian devotionals for the young mother in that it introduces biblical concepts in an easily digestible, non threatening manner to new believers.  Personally I feel this book should have a sub-title  such as "Daily Inspiration for Mothers", for the sake of full disclosure.  As a blogger for Litfuse publicity group I recieved this book by Guidepost publishers for the purpose of writing this review.  The opinions expressed are my own. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The World of Animals

World of Animals - Fascinating facts about the world of animals  published by Master Books, is a fully illustrated, exhaustive fact filled book of Animals for students. The quality presentation of this book rivals that of many popular science themed books for children. From the cover that features a holographic image of a tiger  that changes when you reposition the angle of the book, to the graphics, photos and text- this book is sure to capture the attention of any young reader interested in science and animals.

The beginning of the book features an introduction about the oprigin of animals in general, based on the biblical creation account of genesis.  The book is further divided by chapters based on the complexity of the organism and animal, starting with simple animals in chapter one which features a suprising and diverse array of both well known and lesser known unique creatures.  Even though this book is intended for students and children in general, I found many chapters of this book very informative and thorough.  The format and layout of the book presents the animal kingdom in such a way as to give the larger picture to the reader.  Animals are not listed in a haphazard alphabetical format which makes no scientifc fact, but rather they are organised based on complexity, species and habitat.  I don't think a better presentation or arrangement could be made.

The title in of itself is rather broad- including a variety of animals grouped by species.  This book, although not a scholary text book, provides a well rounded background for Animals- superior to that of a text book. The superior organization and presentation of this book of animals rivals the quality of any animal encyclopedia.  Basically no living creature is left out, from the floating portists, mosss and fungi to the comples antelope and elephant.  Presenting science and the study of animal life in such an appealing format makes is more obtainable for students in general.  The format and presentation of this book makes the study of animals comprehensive.  As a blogger for New Leaf publishers I recieved this book, published by Master Books for the purpose of writing this review.

World of Science

World of Science- Fascinating facts about the world of science published by Master Books, is a fully illustrated book of popular science for students.  The quality presentation of this book rivals that of many popular science themed books for children.  From the cover that features a holographic image of an atom that changes when you reposition the angle of the book, to the graphics, photos and text- this book is sure to capture the attention of any young reader interested in science. 

The title in of itself is rather broad- including a variety of science related topics ranging from chemistry, physics, geology and space.  The final section inmcludes hands on experiements for readers to perform, suitable for the classroom or home.  Concepts such as atoms, energy, electricity and climate are briefly discussed and simplified for the young school-aged reader.  Complex subjects are made simple to understand and are followed up with photographs, color illustrations and charts.  This book, although not a scholary text book, provides a well rounded background for science.  Presenting science in such an appealing format makes is more obtainable for students in general.  As a blogger for New Leaf publishers I recieved this book, published by Master Books for the purpose of writing this review.

AB4T- Answer Book For Teens by Bodie Hodge, Tommy Mitchell with Ken Ham

AB4T- Answer Book For Teens: Your Questions God's Answers by Bodie Hodge, Tommy Mitchell with Ken Ham is unique, graphic apologetics book written for teenaged readers.  The appealing modern color graphics, and computer- photoshop styled art is enough to compete with popular teen magazines and draw the attention of teenaged readers.  Yet beneath the modern illustrated appearance is an indepth look at biblical principals and theology written in simplified language for a young reader.

Fifteen common, yet crucial questions about faith and the bible are addressed, ranging in various topics such as evolution, natural disasters, philosophy and morals.  More specifically, satisfying and complete answers are provided for timely scientific questions such as the validity of evolution, the time fram of dinosours, the myths of dragons, as well as the theories of the age of the earth.  Such issues in particular are important to teenagers who take science classes in highschool.  I believe even college aged science students would even benefit from the scientific chapters contained.  The introduction includes a words list defining the concepts discussed in the book.

One issue that I was concerned with was the interpretation of a popular passage in Romans that explains that there are those who have the truth written on their hearts even apart from direct tradition of the judeo- Christian revelation.  This refers to the fact that some who have not been formally taught the truths of good inherently know the truths based on the glory of God's ever present creation.  Yet, this book reinterprets this passage loosely to refer to all unbelievers and athiests as a whole when they accept certain judeo- christian traditions  such as marriage and the concept of wearing clothing. While this is an interesting application of this passage, I don't believe this was Paul's intent when he actually wrote the letter.   Other than this issue of interpretation,. as a whole, the explanations in the book are true to bibloical teaching as intended.

In a culture dominated by sub standard mass media, and magazines which serve to shape the impresssionable minds and morals of teenagers, finanally a publication is made to appeal to this target audience.  In contrast to a bare bones text based book on CS Lewis, Aquinas or Augustine apologetics, this book captures the main themes in a repackaged, modern  format that is easily digested  by young readers.  As a blogger for New Leaf Publishers I recieved this book published by Master Books for the purpose of review. 

101 Bible Adventures by Carolyn Larsen

101 Bible Adventures- The Ultimate Quest for Truth featuring the New Living Translation, by Carolyn Larsen is a new book of bible stories made just for children.  In contrast to traditional bibles, each bible story featured has its own illustrated cartoon similar to the style of the cartoons one might see in the cartoon pages of the Sunday newspaper. Additionally, helpful side bars of information are also included.   The cartoons each have a clever caption that might be better appreciated by older children.  For example in the story "A Test for Abraham", the cartoon depicts a very worried looking son- dripping with beads of sweat- Isaiah, tied to a log with an equally concerned Abraham. The bottom caption states, "That was just a little too close". 

Each story has a brief summary section titles "What's up", as well as the corresponding bible passage reference.  A key verse, featuring the New Living Translation is featured next to a key icon.  The "now What?" side bar explains the significance and meaning of the particular story.  The two-tone pages and bold grapohics make the text easy for school aged readers to read as well. 

101 stories taken from the Old and New testaments of the bible are featured in chronological order.  The stories are short and simple to hold the attention of a young reader.  As a blogger for Tyndale, I recieved this book published by Tyndale Kids publishers for the purpose of writing this review.  I believe this book makes a great alternative to the traditional children's bible and is perfect for school aged readers.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Essential Guide to Healing by Bill Johnson and Randy Clark

The Essential Guide to Healing: Equipping All Christians to Pray for the Sick by Bill Johnson and Randy Clark is a specialized book targeted to those Christians who believe in the existence of the literal gift of physical healing. In fact, for those who believe that physical healing is a gift, this is an extensive how to guide to prayer and healing.  Literal modern day spiritual gifts is one of those internal issues that have the potential to cause such controversy as to cause divisions within the church as well as subdivisions, sects and cults.  After all, it is often fights over secondary issues such as this which cause splinter groups and numerous different denominations in the first place.

Basically those who believe in physical lietral healing are generally those same individuals who believe that talking in tongues, a.k.a "angel language" is an actual gift of the Holy Spirit that is common place today.  Nevertheless, this book is not a defense of spiritual gifts in general and it focuses specifically on the alleged gift of physical healing.

The intense focus on physical healing as a gift of the Holy Spirit comes at a great cost.  basically it dismisses the purpose of pain and the possibility that God uses pain and suffering for the greater glory.  Pain and suffering are a fact of life, and it does has its purpose.  While it is true that Jesus physically healed the sick, it was not the focus of his ministry.  Rather the purpose of the healing was in order to give glory to God's name while he was present.  In the ancient church this gift served the apostles well in fascilitating the growth of faith at a time when physical signs and proofs were most needed.  But as as Paul stated in the book of Corinthians we have the word of God as a testament and that certain gifts will eventually pass away.

This book promotes important concepts such as helping others and focusing others- something that all Christians are called to do.  Prayer is important, but sometimes we just simply don't get physical healing but rather and more importantly, spiritual healing and peace.  For those readers who wish to learn more about the point of view of the concept of literal physical healing, this book is very thorough.  The authors include a very good and detailed history of the issue of the healing debate and its origins.This book covers the growth of the controversy concerning spiritual gifts and its stem from the protestant and Roman Catholic churches. For any student or reader interested in the history of thology and the history of denominations, from the point of the spiritual gift controversy, this book is very informative.  As a blogger I receieved this book from Chosen publishers, a division of Baker publishing group for the purpose of writing this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

The Promise of Provision by Derek Prince

The new book, The Promise of Provision by Derek Prince serves to justify financial wealth.  At times, this book appears to be self serving in its defence of financial wealth and proseperity.  The author considers financial poverty to be a curse, rather than a blessing, explaining that the abundance life and wealth refer to financial and material abundance, and not simply spiritual abundance.

It goes without saying that there are numerous occasions that the bible tells us to store treasures in heaven rather than on earth.  Nevertheless, this book goes through great lengths to redefine wealth and richness as literal richness and that poverty refers not to spiritual lack, but physical lack.  This controversal book redefines many biblical terms and expressions to refer to the material sense rather than the spiritual sense.  In the end, it seems this book is a justification for those who have material wealth and resources.

 Regardless, this book does make a good point- and that point is this: with material abundance comes responsability to share and help the less fortunate as well as the church.  In of itself, some readers may see this as a self serving statement in that wealthy Christians should be justified and encouraged so that they may don ate to chruches.  Another interesting segment of this book is its discussion of generalational curses.  Based on observation there is some validity to the fact that poverty, emotional illness, and health issues seem to span over generations.  but the danger of this line of thinking is that it may be taken to the extreme in the belief that all sufferering: physical, financial and emotional is the result of sin.  This is not always the case when one considers Jesus' words in the new testament when he explains that a man had a certain illness for the glory of God.  This books dismisses the divine purpose of pain and suffering.  This book most likely will serve to perpetuate the negative stereotypes of the poor and sick, rather than giving those who suffer the biblical and spiritual strength to persevere.  I'd suggest that any reader who wants a balanced persepective on God's provision, would do better to read the words of scripture than this interpretation whichserves to "tickle the ears" of those advantaged readers who seek to justify their wealth and prosperity.  As a blogger I receieved this book from Chosen publishers, a dividion of Baker publishing group, for the purpose of writing this review.  My opinions are my own.