Monday, September 15, 2014

Book Review: The Case for a Creator, Student Edition

The Case for a Creator, Student Edition
By Lee Strobel
Zondervan, 2014
English, 112 pgs

Based on the bestseller The Case for a Creator, Lee Strobel, along with Jane Vogel, gives students the evidence they need to point to a Creator.

When Lee Strobel was a high school freshman, science convinced him that God didn't exist. Since then, however, incredible scientific discoveries have not only helped restore Lee's faith, but have strengthened it.

In this student edition of the bestselling The Case for a Creator, Strobel encourages teens to challenge the "facts" that say there is no God and to weigh the evidence for themselves. Readers will be astonished by what some of today's most respected experts have to say about the birth of the universe, Darwinism, DNA research, and the astounding fine-tuning of the cosmos. Ultimately, they must consider the question: Could it be that the universe looks designed … because it is?

This is the third book I've read from the Case For series.  This is a little harder to read, since it's a lot about science and creation, but it's very well researched and very convincing.

The chapters cover The Bang, Evolution, Biochemistry and DNA, among other topics. This is the most difficult of the books to read because there is a lot about theories and scientific research. I think this would be good for a student who is being taught in a school where they are pushing non-Biblical "truths". They would be able to use this book to learn to refute the teachings, in a polite way, with solid factual data.

I received a copy of the book from BookLook Bloggers for the purpose of a review on this blog and a commercial bookseller site. No additional compensation has been received and I was not required to write a positive review.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Book Review: Colliding with Destiny

Colliding with Destiny
By Sarah Jakes
Bethany House, 2014
English, 220 pgs

From the Back of the Book:

Find a fuller, richer life by letting God direct your destiny.
The story of Ruth is a journey of transformation. By allowing God to transform her circumstances, Ruth went from a widow who would be excluded from society to a wife with a secure and protected future, a future that ultimately paved the way for the birth of King David! Her story is full of collision--loss, heartache, poverty, even shame--but she never let her past define her. Instead, the most painful time of her life became her most pivotal, propelling her to a destiny she never imagined.

Perhaps you have a past you're struggling to overcome. If disappointments, whether a result of your own choices or the actions of others, have kept you from being your true self, this book is for you. Follow Ruth's life and discover the hope available to each of us. Your yesterday does not have to dictate your tomorrow.

Despite your past pain, you, too, can find redemption and restoration.

This is a very easy to read, daily devotion style, book. There are 30 fairly short chapters which lend themselves to a month of daily study. Each chapter ends with a journal style lesson from the author, questions for reflection and a prayer.

The book is about overcoming your past and the hurts in it. There is a lot of painful biography to read as well as topical application toward life. I found that the biographical material was a bit redundant at time, as if the author was still dealing with moving past her hurts. Completely understandable...not judging at all. It made the progression of the study from hurt to hope more real and allows the reader to better relate to the author. 

The writing is not challenging to read at all. By that I mean that it's easy to understand and clearly expresses the point without overwhelming the reader with concepts that are too cerebral.

I received a copy of the book from Bethany House for the purpose of a review on this blog and a commercial bookseller site. No additional compensation has been received and I was not required to write a positive review.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Book Review: The Case for Faith, Student Edition

The Case for Faith, Student Edition
By Lee Strobel
Zondervan, 2014
English, 112 pgs

Based on the bestselling Case for Faith, author Lee Strobel, along with Jane Vogel, present students with a fascinating journey, discovering insights that will reshape the way they view faith.
Lee Strobel knows how important it is to find answers that ring true. With his background as an award-winning journalist, asking tough questions has been his business. And while his search for the truth convinced Lee that Jesus is real, it also confronted him with some particularly knotty, gut-level questions about Christianity that teens have likely asked as well.

In The Case for Faith Student Edition, students will gain powerful insights that will reshape their understanding of the Bible. And they'll read true stories of people whose experiences demonstrate that faith in Jesus not only make excellent sense, but a life-changing difference.

I'm really enjoying the Strobel books. I've previously read and reviewed The Case for Christ, Student Edition. Just like that one, this book is well researched and written. Strobel is a former athiest and journalist who wanted to find reasons to discredit his wife's new faith in Christ. Instead, he met the Lord and committed his life to Him.

This one is written a little differently than the previous book. It's more like transcripts of conversations. Strobel tackles really tough questions, like suffering, hell, evolution and doubt. These are questions the kids in our church youth group are asking my husband, the pastor, so I know they're real concerns and real questions that people have about our faith.

The answers are very clear and on the right level of understanding for students. There are extra resources listed for going deeper in the study as well as an excerpt from The Case for The Real Jesus. Each of Strobel's book is noted and presented at the back as well.

I received a copy of the book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for a review on this blog and a commercial bookselling site. No additional compensation has been received and I was not required to write a positive review.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Book Review: Making Sense of the Bible

Making Sense of the Bible
By David Whitehead
Bethany House, 2014
English, 176 pgs

I Want to Read the Bible, but Where Do I Start?
The Bible can seem like an intimidating book, but it may be easier to understand than you think. Making Sense of the Bible will teach you how to enjoy studying it on your own.

David Whitehead has been helping people engage with the Bible for years, including through his popular website, The Daily Bible Verse. The Bible is an incredible gift from God to you, and this brief "user's manual" will teach you how to get the most out of it. Perfect for individual or group use, this book answers basic questions like how to know which Bible version is right for you, and from there introduces you to its stories, people, and major themes.

In the end, reading the Bible isn't just about knowledge, it's about connecting with the God who speaks through His Word. Let this engaging book help you hear what He wants to tell you.

This is a very basic, introduction to the Bible. This is something for someone who has struggled with reading the Bible or who is new to Christian faith and doesn't know where to start.

The chapters are fairly short and quite packed with information. It covers topics like the neverending differences between translations, the writing styles in the Bible (letter, poetry, history) and gives a brief overview of the topics of the books.

It covers the stories of Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus in separate chapters. These are central figures in the Bible after all and they are handled in a concise and informative manner.

The chapters on the general books really help to see a quick overview of each book. This is a starting point and really isn't overly academic. It has a nice section in the back for other resources.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for a review on this blog and a commercial bookselling site. No additional compensation has been received and I was not required to write a positive review.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Book Review: The Case for Christ, Student Edition

The Case for Christ, Student Edition
By Lee Strobel
Zondervan, 2013
English, 112 pgs

Based on his award-winning bestseller The Case for Christ, journalist Lee Strobel, along with Jane Vogel, presents his journey from skepticism to faith, written for students.

There's historical proof Jesus walked this earth, but was he really who he claimed to be? Or are all the stories in the Bible just that-stories? In The Case for Christ Student Edition, teens will join former investigative journalist Lee Stobel as he searches for objective answers, including those that brought him from skepticism to faith.

In The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith student editions, Lee Strobel unfolds the compelling evidence that turned him from an atheist to a Christian. This leader’s guide gives youth leaders and volunteers everything they need to take their youth group or Sunday school class through both books.

Five riveting sessions per book (ten sessions total) will equip teens with persuasive reasons for their faith in Christ.

These powerful studies will boost the faith of teens, and their confidence to share it, to a whole new level.

This is a very well written argument for the existence and truth of Jesus. Using historical evidence, Strobel clearly spells out and debunks many myths that people (like the author himself) have used over the years to claim that Jesus was neither who He said He was nor that He did what the Bible claims He did.

This edition is written toward a younger audience, but I found it pretty challenging too. There are clear divisions for group study. This has 9 chapters, divided into 3 parts.

The parts are Who Is This Jesus?, How Reliable is the Information about Christ? and Can a Dead Man Come Back to Life?

There is also a short explanation at the beginning of the author's background and process toward belief. The book has a short synopsis of each of the author's other available books at the back too.

The reason I wanted to read and review this book is that our youth group at church has been asking really good questions and I wanted to present this as a potential study for them. I highly recommend it, without any reservations.

I received a copy of the book from BookLook Bloggers for the purpose of a review on this blog and a commercial bookseller site. No additional compensation has been received and I was not required to write a positive review.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Book Review: How to Pick Up a Stripper

How to Pick Up a Stripper
By Todd and Erin Stevens
Thomas Nelson, 2014
English, 224 pgs

The starting and ending points for all outreach have to be love. The most effective way to reach people for Jesus is through servant evangelism—showing God’s love in practical ways. This type of outreach is what Jesus modeled, is culturally relevant, and values people. The goal should be to invite people to take the next step from where they are.

Friendship Community Church, led by Pastor Todd Stevens, has experienced tremendous growth through acts of kindness. The church’s most radical servant evangelism project is Nashville Strip Church, founded by Erin Stevens. Erin’s life changed when God told her to "go feed the strippers."

With home-cooked meals and gift bags, Erin shows dancers that God loves them. How to Pick Up a Stripper and Other Acts of Kindness includes the story of a dancer who has come to know Christ, left the strip club industry through Erin’s ministry, and is now serving with Erin to reach other strippers.

From feeding the homeless, to Easter egg hunts for special needs children, to ministering in a strip club, How to Pick Up a Stripper and Other Acts of Kindness provides exciting ideas for showing God’s love in practical ways.

Features include:
  • Stories from servant evangelism events, including Strip Church
  • Ideas for showing God’s love in practical ways
  • Inspiration to step out of your comfort zone to serve people 

This is an incredible book. I was hesitant about reading it simply because of the title and the picture on the cover. Silly reason, I know. I'm glad I picked it though. I read it in two days because the book is just that good!

The basis of everything we do in reaching someone is love. We have to love people enough to want to share the gift of God's grace. It makes me think of the Penn Gilette video where he asks "how much do you have to hate someone to not want to share your God with them?" 

There are a lot of practical things described that you can implement in your own life or church. Each chapter ends with questions for discussion so this could also be used as a Bible study guide. I'd love to see that church bulletin announcement!

 I like that they make a difference between servant evangelism and acts of kindness. They can be the same thing, but not in all cases. Buying someone's lunch isn't the same as mowing their lawn. They can both be from the same "heart place" but they're a different kind of action.

The author has a really excellent chapter about generosity. The only thing that confused me was that the chapter on prayer was last. That, to me, should have been the start.

I received a copy of the book from BookLook blogger program in exchange for a review on this site and a commercial bookseller site. No additional compensation has been, or will be, received. I was not required to write a positive review.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Book Review: Simplify

Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul
By Bill Hybels
Tyndale Momentum; August 19, 2014
English, 320 pgs

Exhausted. Overwhelmed. Overscheduled. Sound familiar? Today’s velocity of life can consume and control us . . . until our breakneck pace begins to feel normal and expected. That’s where the danger lies: When we spend our lives doing things that keep us busy but don’t really matter, we sacrifice the things that do.

What if your life could be different? What if you could be certain you were living the life God called you to live—and building a legacy for those you love? If you crave a simpler life anchored by the priorities that matter most, roll up your sleeves: Simplified living requires more than just cleaning out your closets or reorganizing your desk drawer. It requires uncluttering your soul. By eradicating the stuff that leaves your spirit drained, you can stop doing what doesn’t matter—and start doing what does.

In Simplify, bestselling author Bill Hybels identifies the core issues that lure us into frenetic living—and offers searingly practical steps for sweeping the clutter from our souls.

The concept of the book is, well, simple. Hybels gives 10 strategies that are aimed to help you slow down, be less busy and find time for what really matters in life.

There doesn't seem to be anything particularly new in the book though. He advocates putting God first, learning to say "no", exercise and proper nutrition, rest....all the things we've been told for years to do. 

If you haven't been reading books about simplifying your life, getting back on track, or any other catch phrasey topic, this is a good place to start. The chapters are fairly long, but very detailed and have explanations, steps and goals in them.

There are chapters on finances, scheduling, fears, forgiveness and being in the season of life you currently face. This is by no means a bad book. It's informative, well written and in depth. It's just not anything new to me. It could be to you though. It's worth a shot!

I received a copy of the book from Tyndale House for the purpose of a review on this site and on a commercial bookseller site. No additional compensation has been, or will be, received and I was not required to write a positive review.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Book Review: The Red Sea Rules

The Red Sea Rules
By Robert J. Morgan
Thomas Nelson, 2014
English, 160 pgs

Just as Moses and the Israelites found themselves caught between "the devil and the deep Red Sea," so are we sometimes overwhelmed by life's problems. But God delivered the Israelites, and He will deliver us too.

The Red Sea Rules reveals, even in the midst of seemingly impossible situations, God's promise to make a way for us. His loving guidance will protect us through danger, illness, marital strife, financial problems - whatever challenges Satan places in our path.

Using the Israelites' story as an example, Robert Morgan offers ten sound strategies for moving from fear to faith. Among them: Realize that God means for you to be where you are. Acknowledge your enemy, but keep your eyes on the Lord. Pray.

Life is hard. It is certain that we will face difficulties, and that God will allow them, as He allowed the Israelites to become trapped between Pharaoh's rushing armies and the uncrossable Red Sea. But just as certain is the fact that the same God who led us in will lead us out. As The Red Sea Rules makes clear, He is in control.

Updated edition with new study questions accompanying each chapter.

I requested this book to review because we have dear family friends who are facing a brain tumor in a young child. It's a seemingly hopeless situation, yet they're keeping their eyes on God and choosing to praise Him in the midst of the trial they're facing. We don't know why they're struggling with this but we do know that they're not alone.

The 10 rules are nothing that will magically make things better, but they do help you find perspective and give examples from the Bible that illustrate the truth they state. Each rule has a couple of days of devotional length sections. There are a total of 24 of these sections in the book, including the Preface. Each rule chapter has study questions at the end and it states that there is an additional study guide available to accompany your study.

This is good. It helps you to remember that even in the midst of what you may think is your darkest hour, keep your eyes on God, trust Him for the next step, pray and trust Him to be in control. His ways are not our ways and we may not always understand what He puts before us. Sometimes a test is just a test. Sometimes it's to strengthen our faith. It's all up to Him

I received a copy of the book from BookLook Blogger program in exchange for an honest review. No additional compensation has been, or will be, received from the program. I was not required to write a positive review.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Book Review: Crater Trueblood and the Lunar Rescue Company

Crater Trueblood and the Lunar Rescue Company
By Homer Hickam
Thomas Nelson, 2014

English, 336 pgs

The Earth is devastated and the worst elements of humanity are determined to take over the moon. It's up to the settlers of the harsh, gray moon to fight back.

Kidnapped by an evil group intent on the destruction of the world and capture of the moon, Maria Medaris, co-leader of the moon's richest and most powerful family, initially fights for her life, but is soon dazzled by the promises and enticements of her captors.

Crater Trueblood, once rejected by Maria but still in love with her, and Crescent, a female bioengineered warrior fiercely loyal to Crater, use their cunning and deadly skills to come to her aid.

But will Maria be on their side when they get to her? And what of the Earth itself which is in the crosshairs of a destruction not seen since the massive extinction of the dinosaurs?

The fate of two worlds hangs in the balance.

I selected to review this book without realizing it was a part 3 of a series.  I have not read the first two books so I was a little confused about some things at the beginning, but I picked up on the series lingo pretty quickly. The characters had already been developed in the previous books (I assume) so there isn't a lot of motivation description and there is a little history when appropriate. I didn't fully understand all that was going on, but I picked up on enough to be able to continue reading it.

I think there were lots of scenes that just were not exactly necessary. For example, when Petro and Crescent steal the tug and are caught, there is a scene where they're in holding and talking about a wedding, then they're out because Petro picked the lock and then they're right back in the tug. Could have left this out and it would have been just fine. This is just one of a bunch of scenes that really didn't add anything to the book.

From the beginning, Crescent is worried about a secret and I assumed it was her feelings for Crater. I won't spoil anything in the story (assuming it's never discussed in the previous books), but when it was revealed I thought it was pretty far fetched and kinda didn't like her much after that.

Maria is an okay character. It took me a while to realize her motivations and intentions. For that, I feel she's pretty well developed in the book.

I think it's an okay read. If you've read the other books, of course you'll want to read this one as it ties up the story. I wonder though if there isn't one more story that can be told from the book!

I received a copy of the book from BookLook Bloggers for the purpose of a review on this blog and a commercial book seller website. No additional compensation has been, or will be, received and I was not required to write a positive review.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Book Review: A Moment in Time

A Moment in Time
By Tracie Peterson
Bethany House, 2014
English, 320 pgs

Amazon Product Description:
Alice Chesterfield is a woman pursued. Having survived an attack that left her scarred and her father dead, she is never free from the fear and memories of the man who is responsible.

Texas seems to be an answer to Alice's prayers, and when she has the opportunity to relocate to a ranch near Dallas, Robert Barnett captures her attention. Unlike any man Alice has ever known, Robert doesn't worry about the obstacles that stand in their way--and he hardly seems to notice the scar she bears.

But there are storm clouds gathering; devastating information about her family comes to light, threatening Alice's peaceful sanctuary. Disillusioned, Alice must learn to place her trust in God as she seeks a measure of peace for her future...and for her heart.

This is less a sequel and more a logical continuation of the previous novel, A Sensible Arrangement. Jake accepts the call to Texas to work for Marty's sister's farm but Marty doesn't want to go with him so she and Alice stay in Denver to help out at the orphanage. They do what is necessary to keep the children cared for and to help pay part of their room and board there. Alice is still in peril from the men who harmed her and killed her father and through their pursuit she learns something about her family that shocks her and causes her to question everything she has ever known.

After they both decide to follow Jake to Texas, Alice meets and instantly falls in love with Marty's nephew, Robert. He is trying to figure out what he wants in life and who he wants with him in this life. (By the way, why was it acceptable for a man to wait until late 20s to do this and women were supposed to be settled before 20 or risk being called a spinster or old maid?) Anyway, there are a lot of farm/ranch scenes. Alice is learning to tend animals and a house, all new to her since she was raised in a city and a wealthy home.

I like how Marty and Jake are still main characters, even though the story is Alice and Robert's. Marty has a lot to figure out and deal with in her marriage and faith.  There is a lot of "Texas slang" which gets a little overdone at times and a little of the theology and preaching, while not incorrect at all, gets preachy and sometimes doesn't fit with the scene it's in.

The third book in the series, due in September, promises to wrap up all the story lines that were left "hanging" in this book.

I received a copy of the book from Bethany House in exchange for a review on this blog and a commercial website. I was not required to write a positive review and no additional compensation has been received or is expected.