Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Book Review: The James Code

The James Code 
52 Scripture Principles for Putting Your Faith into Action
By O. S. Hawkins
Published by Thomas Nelson

Book Description
The James Code helps believers go from knowing about God to living for Him.

Bestselling author of The Joshua Code and The Jesus Code, O.S. Hawkins is back with a new book that is all about putting your faith into action.

Together, The Joshua Code and The Jesus Code have sold more than 300,000 copies. The James Code, designed in the same format, will capitalize on The Joshua Code's core audience of churches, pastors, and readers who appreciate the year-long study format. With applicable truth from the book of James, The James Code is both practical and personal.

As with The Joshua Code and The Jesus Code, all royalties will go to Mission:Dignity, whose mission supports retired pastors and their wives and widows living near poverty level in their declining years. What a meaningful way to show support and appreciation for the work of retired pastors and their families.

 I really took my time with this book. The book of James is so rich in instruction that I didn't want to rush reading this and miss something. The book itself is a smaller "gift sized" book and has 52 readings, supposedly one per week for a year. I read it far faster, but it would be great to take it that slow and really dig into the words from the Bible.

 There are 13 main sections, with several chapters each. They range from stress to money to wisdom. The readings follow the book of James and only take a few verses for each. Every reading has a "Just Do It" at the end to help you put what you've read into your life.

This is an excellent book and will make a nice gift for pastors or anyone who loves reading the Bible. I really love that the book supports Mission:Dignity. That is a very worthwhile organization that I think needs more promotion and support.

I received a copy of the book for the purpose of this review. No additional compensation has been received and I was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Book Review: Wicked Women of the Bible

Wicked Women of the Bible 
By Ann Spangler
Zondervan, 2015
English, 224 pgs

What can Jezebel, the Bible’s wickedest queen, reveal about God’s holiness and power and even about his sense of humor? What about the Woman at the Well—the one with five husbands and a live-in lover? And what of the prostitute whose tears bathe the feet of Jesus in front of people who despise her?

There are also “wicked good” women like Deborah, Ruth, Hannah, Abigail, Esther, Mary, and more.

What do their lives tell us about God’s invincible love and his determined plan to save us?
In Wicked Women of the Bible Ann Spangler tells the stories of twenty wicked and “wicked good” women in greater detail. At the end of each story, Ann provides a brief section including additional historical and cultural background as well as a brief Bible study in order to enhance the book’s appeal to both individuals and groups.

The stories of these women of the Bible reveal a God who is not above it all but who stoops down to meet us where we are in order to extend his love and mercy.

About the Author
Ann Spangler is an award-winning writer and the author of many bestselling books, including Praying the Names of God, Praying the Names of Jesus, and The One Year Devotions for Women. She is also coauthor of Women of the Bible and Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus and the general editor of the Names of God Bible. Ann’s fascination with and love of Scripture have resulted in books that have opened the Bible to a wide range of readers. She and her two daughters live in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Website: http://www.annspangler.com/

Blog: http://www.annspangler.com/category/blog/

Such an enticing and juicy title for a book! The women she discusses were radicals. They didn't sit down and have babies and tend house like women were expected to do in Bible times. And they were radical, and in some cases faithful, enough that they were discussed in the Word of God. Their names and stories have been told for generations upon generations.

There are your typical "big names" like Eve, Sarah and Esther. But there are also smaller stories like Tamar, Michal and Gomer that don't always get lots of attention. The chapters are fairly short yet thoughtfully written. Each story has background on the times when they women lived and why they were so wicked in what they did. Why they went against social convention and expectation to become women we can learn from and study. Ruth was wicked for laying down at the feet of Boaz yet she showed a faithfulness that put her into the lineage of King David and Jesus. The extreme wickedness of Jezebel shows us that it just doesn't end well when you fight against God.

Each chapter has a "takeaway" section which is questions for reflection or discussion.

I like this book. It's good for personal study or group study. It's fun to dig into women's stories and find the greater Biblical truths contained within.

I received a copy of the book 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.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Book Review: Chivalrous

Chivalrous (Valiant Hearts Book 2)
By Dina Sleiman
Bethany House, 2015
English, 368 pgs


From the Back Cover

With Her Future In Jeopardy, This Unforgettable Heroine Won't Go Down
Without a Fight!

Strong and adventurous Gwendolyn Barnes longs to be a knight like her chivalrous brothers, but her parents view her only as a marriage pawn. When her domineering father makes plans to see her wed to a brutish man, Gwendolyn must fight for her future.

She's surprised, however, for that clash to include a handsome, good-hearted newcomer. Allen of Ellsworth arrives in Edendale searching for his place in the world, but he finds in Gwendolyn the most unexpected of women.

Tournaments, intrigue, and battles--along with twists and turns aplenty--await these two as they struggle to find love, identity, and their true destinies.

I really enjoyed this book. I have not read book one in the Valiant Hearts series but it didn't in any way impede the story of this book. There is enough "backstory" to help you understand what happened in the first book.

I'm a fan of knights and kings and that whole world of chivalry, jousting and courts. I think this book is an excellent example of that genre. The main characters, Gwendolyn and Allen, are very well developed and very easy to like. They struggle with not only their own identities but also with finding out who God is and how He relates to their lives. 

The family dynamic for Gwen, while hard to read at times, was actually pretty accurate for that time and I appreciate that the author didn't gloss over the lack of women's rights at that time.

For Gwen (and even the Duchess Adela) to do the things they do in the story requires courage and no small amount of faith. They learn to set aside preconceived notions of women and become heroines of their own stories.

I liked that the author uses points of view from both main characters. It made it a little easy to figure out what was going to happen, but it was still a fun read.

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

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Book Review: Adventure Bible

Adventure Bible for Little Ones
By Catherine DeVries
Zonderkidz, 2015
English, 40 pgs

Ten stories from the Adventure Bible Storybook are now available for toddlers in the popular and affordable padded board book format.

The Adventure Bible for Toddlers starts children ages 2-5 on the journey of a lifetime, teaching them about the Bible's great stories and themes. Using simple text and art from the wildly popular Adventure Bible Storybook, it helps young children grow closer to Jesus as they learn about all God has done in the world. With ten beautifully illustrated and iconic Bible stories from the Old and New Testament, this sturdy padded board book will stimulate toddlers' minds and fill their hearts with love for their heavenly Father. Parents, grandparents, and children alike will treasure the Adventure Bible for Toddlers as a classic addition to their read-aloud library.

This is a very small board style book for little ones just learning about the Bible. My youngest has been asking for his own Bible for a while now but he's still in the "I'm going to tear pages" stage of development so we've been hesitant to get him a larger Bible. This one has made him very happy and has been read over and over already.

Each of the stories is four pages and has full color photos to go along with the story. The words are easy to read and understand. We've been using it for sight word recognition as well as getting him to remember the stories that are in the book.

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

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Book Review: My God and My All

My God and My All: The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi
By Elizabeth Goudge
Plough Publishing House, 2015
English, 310 pgs

The captivating story of the world’s favorite saint is now retold for a modern audience by one of the great novelists of our time.

Perhaps more than any other figure in Christian history since Jesus Christ, Saint Francis of Assisi has captured our imagination, for his is a story of extreme self-sacrifice, of love to God and man. How could this wealthy, handsome youth cast away all the advantages that were his by birth and choose instead a career of poverty and humility? How could he attract members of all strata of society to his mission? And how, when his order became established throughout Europe, could he renounce great personal power and humbly continue his life’s work?

Here is Francis, from his twelfth-century boyhood to his life as a missionary roaming the very boundaries of the known world. Here too are the men and women who followed him―Bernard de Quintavalle, the rich businessman; Peter Cathanii, the lawyer; Brother Giles, the farmer’s son; Lady Clare; and so many others―all drawn together by the personal magnetism and humble faith of their leader, all re-created by bestselling novelist Elizabeth Goudge against a rich medieval canvas.

My God and My All: The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi does not read like a traditional biography, rather presenting the life of the famous preacher in novel format. While this approach allows for author Elizabeth Goudge’s writing to flow in a more readable manner, there are times when it feels awkward to the point of unnecessary flattery. Use of “dialog” and first-person presentation takes an unwarranted license with the subject.

The author is clearly familiar with Catholic theology and presents Francis from that perspective – the acceptance of Francis’s canonization is clear as well as several other distinctly Catholic points. While this is understandable given the dominance of Roman Catholicism at the time, a more balanced approach as a biography would be welcome. Due to the odd format of the book (originally published in 1959) source citation and footnotes are nonexistent. Those who read from an evangelical perspective may stumble over usage (even the use of “saint” as a position, rather than a description of a follower and believer in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord).

It’s difficult to recommend this book to anyone other than those who are already reasonably familiar with Francis’s life. It does not serve as a scholarly work of biographical research and it’s frankly too dry as a novel. It’s that lack of format that hinders this from being a usable work rather than a mildly interesting diversion.

I received a copy of the book 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.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Book Review: Shoo Fly! You Can't Eat Here

Shoo Fly! You Can't Eat Here
By Liller Hamilton
Outskirts Press, 2015
English, 24 pgs

He must have been very hungry because... The common housefly is an unwelcome pest that will find its way into your home, school, business, and even the White House to get a meal. But the kindergarten students in Shoo, Fly! are determined not to share their well-balanced lunches with a hungry fly! Children will enjoy reading this delightfully illustrated book on their own, and they will especially love it when you read the story to them and emulate the voice and action of each child. Shoo, Fly! also offers an opportunity for open-ended and critical-thinking discussion questions.

About the Author:
Liller Hamilton is a retired schoolteacher. During her tenure, she taught preschool for more than 20 years and was the recipient of numerous awards, including a three-time incentive award, Channel 6 TV Teacher of the Week, District Teacher of the Year, and an Excellence in Teaching award. Mrs. Hamilton also traveled abroad to exchange teaching methods and experiences with foreign countries. She still lives on a farm in the south where she was born and reared.

This is a cute, large format paperback book for a very young age child. My older kid has been reading it to the younger and they laugh so much through it that they don't always make it to the end. The phrase "Shoo Fly! You can't eat here!" has even made a few appearances at our dinner table!

The story is about a group of children who are eating a meal and a fly decides to infiltrate. It's hungry and their food looks good! It's healthy food and I guess the fly would rather eat healthy. You know, so it can keep buzzing around our heads all the time.

Anyway, the illustrations are on the left side of the page spread and it changes very subtly each time, depending on which child is shooing the fly. Their healthy lunch is on the table in front of them and they wave their hands at the fly to make it move along. 

 The story really is about healthy eating and it's very subtle in teaching that. It doesn't say "you should" but rather presents it as kids loving the good, healthy foods they're eating.

I sent this with my youngest to his Kindergarten class and the teacher said they all laughed and loved it! (She's far better at the voices than I am...)

I received a copy of the book for the purpose of 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.

Book Review: 5 Minute Bible Stories

5 Minute Bible Stories
By Gwen Ellis
Thomas Nelson, 2015
English, 192 pgs

Five-minute Bible stories will help little ones understand God's love.

Selections from the successful Read and Share® Bible, part of the bestselling Read and Share® series, are now available in a new design and format! Parents will capture little ones' attention during story time with these engaging retellings of classic Bible stories. Kids will enjoy the big and bright hardcover format and the colorful, vibrant illustrations as they learn about God's love and biblical characters - including Noah, Joseph, David, Paul, and Jesus Christ - in a way they can understand.

Every entry in Read and Share 5-Minute Bible Stories is just the right length to be read out loud in about five minutes. Parents will appreciate having readings that are easy-to-digest for kids and perfect for a short, snug story time. Plus, each reading includes interactive components, encouraging Scripture memory and reinforcing comprehension with quick activities for parents and kids, so the shared fun and learning can continue beyond storytime.

First off, the format of the book is great. It's a hard cover but it's puffy and soft, like a young reader book should be. There are 58 Old Testament and 34 New Testament stories. It is colorful and every story is only across one page span. No turning pages required while reading.

The stories are really short and for us, the 5 minutes was more for talking about the stories. We read the actual story in about a minute. Each one has a little question or statement for going beyond the story. Things like "Do you think Moses made a mistake?" or "Sometimes God asks us to do things we don't understand. We just need to obey." Those were more engaging than the story was for my kids. But these are also pastor's kids who have been raised with these stories and could almost tell us the stories without us having to read the words.

I'm impressed with the book and we're not all the way through it yet, so I'm looking forward to the rest of the book and the time that we spend talking about God's Word together.

I received a copy of the book for the purpose of 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.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Book Review: Can You Believe It?

Can You Believe It: 31 More Stories and Devotions to Start Your Day
By Joseph Akins
Self Published, 2014
English, 108 pgs
Available online at: www.josephakins.net

Can You Believe It? is the second in a series of books containing short stories and devotions that have a definite homespun flavor. If you enjoyed Joy Comes In The Morning, make sure to order the next installment, Can You Believe It?.

About the Author:
Born and raised in South Georgia, Joseph has never strayed far from his southern roots.  More importantly, raised in a Christian home, he has also clung to the spiritual roots which are the foundation of his Christian faith.  The child of a WWII veteran and his Italian "war bride", Joseph draws many of his stories from an eclectic cultural background and happy childhood on the family farm.  Having worked in conventional ministry, lay ministry, and numerous sales positions, he has developed a wide base of  experiences which give him his "unusual" viewpoints on everyday life. 
Joseph is a husband, father, writer, teacher, and poor man's comedian.  He and his wife, Wendy, have a blended family of four children and one dog.  They reside in Statesboro, GA.

This is a 31 day devotion book. Each chapter is fairly short and easy to read in one sitting. The topics covered include "pet" sins, why we should believe the things God tells us, storms in our path and missing the mark in our life.

The devotions are written with a lot of heart and humor. I particularly enjoyed the stories from the author's life. From flea ridden puppies to refinishing a table, I can only imagine what kind of trouble he gets himself into on occasion. (Don't we all though?)

But beyond the humor, the application and use of the Bible is spot on. I did not find anything that I did not understand nor did I find anything that I disagreed with in interpretation.

This would be a good book for gifting as well as reading during your morning/evening prayer time.

I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. No additional compensation has been received and I was not required to write a positive review. This reviewer has personal connection to a member of the author's family, but that connection did not affect the review in any way. All opinions, as stated, are my own.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Book Review: NIV Zondervan Study Bible

NIV Zondervan Study Bible Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message
By General Editor D.A. Carson
Published by Zondervan, 2015

English, 2912 pgs

The NIV Zondervan Study Bible, featuring Dr. D.A. Carson as general editor, is built on the truth of Scripture and centered on the gospel message. D.A. Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is a founding member of the Gospel Coalition.


The NIV Zondervan Study Bible, featuring Dr. D.A. Carson as general editor, is built on the truth of Scripture and centered on the gospel message. An ambitious and comprehensive undertaking, Dr. Carson, with committee members Dr. T. Desmond Alexander, Dr. Richard S. Hess, Dr. Douglas J. Moo, and Dr. Andrew David Naselli, along with a team of over 60 contributors from a wide range of evangelical denominations and perspectives, crafted all-new study notes and other study tools to present a biblical theology of God's special revelation in the Scriptures. To further aid the readers' understanding of the Bible, also included are full-color maps, charts, photos and diagrams. In addition, a single-column setting of the Bible text provides maximum readability.

The accessible and fresh interior design will capture your attention and enhance your study experience. Along with your purchase, you'll also receive free electronic access to the NIV Zondervan Study Bible.

Features include:
  • Over 60 scholarly contributors 
  • Over 1.2 million words of new content 
  • Over 3,000 pages packed with in-depth study tools 
  • Nearly 20,000 all-new, comprehensive verse-by-verse study notes 
  • Customized, theologically rich, illustrated book introductions 
  • 6 section introductions to literary genres ("The Pentateuch," "The Historical Books," etc.) 
  • Full-color interior with extensive use of over 60 colorful charts, over 90 maps, and hundreds of photos 
  • Comprehensive library of over 30 articles by award-winning scholars on topics such as "The Bible and Theology," "The Glory of God," "Covenant," "Love and Grace," and more 
  • Cross-reference system 
  • Complete text of the New International Version 
  • Concordance with over 35,000 Scripture references 
  • Free electronic access to the study Bible

This is not a small Bible. This is a heavy, massive, well done Bible. The editor has clearly worked hard compiling the information, pictures and then putting it together in a very usable format. I don't think I've ever seen this many maps in a Bible. There is one in almost every book. If there isn't a map, there is probably a chart or illustration. Seriously, there is nothing left to wonder about in this Bible. It has notes at the bottom of the page to help explain the verses. Every book has introduction pages which help the reader to know things like author, date, audience and structure of the book. The section introductions help put the related books into context with each other.

At the back are articles that are not long but will help you in your understanding of the scriptures. Bear in mind though, while these are well researched and written and the authors are "award-winning scholars" they are not God and their words are not part of the canon of the Bible. They are opinions based on their experience and research.

The best part about the Word of God is that it's alive. It will speak to you when you spend time in reading and study. It will comfort you, encourage you, teach you. If you listen to the Holy Spirit while you're reading and really spend the time to get into the words you'll find that you can understand more of it than you might think you can.

The access to the free digital version is quite handy as well for portability reasons. An iPad is much lighter than this huge book.

The only criticism I have is with parts of the translation itself. The "new" NIV translation changes a few things from the 1984 version that really make a difference in the translation. For instance, the difference in Hebrews 12:2, which now says "the the pioneer and perfecter of faith" instead of "the author and perfecter of our faith" makes a difference. Author and pioneer are very different in meaning. Even the Holman translation of "source and perfecter" is much better. Basically the difference, in my very humble and not award-winning opinion, is that author or source tell me that the faith originates there, with Jesus. A pioneer is someone who goes out and explores or charts new territory. And while Jesus has charted a new territory for our faith, it began with Him. There was nothing He had to go out and find.

Anyway, if you're looking for a deeper study Bible, this is a great one. If you're needing a portable Bible for going to church or something, the digital version of this is great, but the paper one will build your biceps.

I received a copy of the book in exchange for a review on this site and a commercial bookselling site. No additional compensation has been received and I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions, as stated, are my own.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Book Review: Believe, Kids Edition

Believe, Kids' Edition
Randy Frazee, General Editor
Zonderkidz, 2015
English, 224 pgs

Written for kids 8-12, Believe: Kid’s Edition is part of the national church-wide campaign led by bestselling author Randy Frazee that takes kids on a journey to become more like Jesus in their beliefs, actions, and character.

They know the story of the Bible, but do they know what it means? Adapted from the ground-breaking new Believe campaign from bestselling author and pastor Randy Frazee, the Believe: Kids’ Edition takes kids on a thematic tour through the Bible and shows them how to think, act, and be more like Jesus.

As children ages 8-12 walk through the three big categories of Christian life—beliefs, practices, and virtues—they’ll begin a journey that will take them closer to the heart of Jesus and deeper into the words of Scripture. They’ll learn what the Bible has to say about everything from the nature of God and the identity of Jesus, to prayer, worship, and the fruit of the Spirit. Foundational and faith-building, this book can be used by individuals or in conjunction with the all-church campaign.



Oh, I need to say more? Well, this is an excellent book. It is written in a meaningful and understandable way for this age group. It is arranged into three sections: think, act and be. It tells stories from the Bible and uses scripture memorization as well as asking questions for reflection and comprehension.

I have an 8 year old who has already made a profession of faith but who has had a hard time understanding "what now?" He is a proficient reader so I got this for him to work through. He has been reading it and asking us questions as he has them. The majority of the chapter is scripture but they have thoughts and ideas for kids to learn what the scripture means.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Everything I've seen from the Believe line of books has been outstanding.

I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest 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.