Sunday, January 25, 2015



The Daniel Cure: The Daniel Fast Way to Vibrant Health
By Susan Gregory and Richard J. Bloomer 
Zondervan, 2013
English, 336 pgs


Description:
One of the most popular fasts in recent years has been the Daniel Fast, a 21-day period of prayer and fasting based on the Old Testament prophet's fasts recorded in Daniel 1 and Daniel 10.

The Daniel Fast is a partial fast, in which certain foods are restricted and others are consumed. This fast is similar to a 'purified' vegan diet; in addition to the exclusion of all animal products, no additives, preservatives, sweeteners, caffeine, alcohol, white flour, or processed foods are allowed.

With the Daniel Fast people can eat as much Daniel-Fast-friendly food as they would like. Though most people begin the Daniel Fast for a spiritual purpose, many are amazed by the physical transformation that takes place. Many with high cholesterol experience a drop to healthy levels; people who have wrestled with weight issues are suddenly able to lose the pounds. The vast majority of participants following the Daniel Fast report a general sense of well-being and increased energy.

Recent published scientific studies of the Daniel Fast have confirmed these findings, with additional benefits, such as a reduction in systemic inflammation, a reduction in blood pressure, and an improvement in antioxidant defenses.

The Daniel Cure will help readers take the next step by focusing on the health benefits of the Daniel Fast. By following the advice in this book, readers will convert the Daniel Fast from a once-a-year spiritual discipline into a new way of life that can begin any time of the year. In a nation suffering an epidemic of obesity and its resulting ills, The Daniel Cure may be just what the Great Physician ordered.

The Daniel Cure includes a 21-Day Daniel Cure Devotional, four chapters detailing the lifestyle diseases of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and inflammation, eleven chapters of recipes and meal planning advice, a recipe index, complete nutritional guidance, and an appendix detailing 'The Science behind the Daniel Fast.'


Review:
This is a very descriptive book. It tells you a lot about the science behind the diet/fast. It is by no means an easy diet or lifestyle to adopt. It is something that should be undertaken after careful study, consideration and a discussion with your doctor about whether or not you can do this.

There are chapters and chapters about the science that is described in the book description. I appreciate that the authors make every effort to inform your decision. 

 The 21 day devotional and the recipes are the part that I really was interested in with this book. They're excellent. You get more than just a basic salad, shake or soup with these recipes. Of course, the authors also give a lot of help with meal planning and that will really help you stay on the diet. 

This is something that my husband and I have been interested in for a while and we're working toward being able to do the fast. We're weaning ourselves off caffeine and processed foods. The author is very careful to tell you not to just start this on one day. You have to rid yourself of the toxins from the junk in our foods and it is not an easy process. 

If you're looking for a good solid reference about the diet this is your book. You can always find more recipes online if you're not interested in the ones in the book.

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.
 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Book Review: Stealing From God



Stealing From God
By Frank Turek
NavPress, 2014
English, 304 pgs

Description:
If you think atheists have reason, evidence, and science on their side, think again! Award-winning author Dr. Frank Turek (I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist) will show you how atheists steal reason, evidence, science, and other arguments from God in trying to make their case for atheism. If that sounds contradictory, it’s because it is! Atheists can’t make their case without appealing to realities only theism can explain. In an engaging and memorable way, Stealing from God exposes these intellectual crimes atheists are committing and then provides four powerful reasons for why Christianity is true.

Review:
Frank Turek makes a salient case in Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God To Make Their Case that the atheist worldview unintentionally relies on theistic foundations from which it derives its order. Turek cleverly alliterates the theme of theft by assigning each of the six major chapters as C.R.I.M.E.S. – C-Causality, R-Reason, I-Information & Intentionality, M-Morality, E-Evil, and S-Science.

Each of these chapters takes apart the prevailing atheistic positions on the listed subjects and displays a clear logic that undermines the positions. The logic and discussion in each chapter is clear and presented in an easy-to-understand language. Turek’s obvious intention is to make his conclusion that God exists readily understood by virtually any reader. There is no slight-of-hand or logical obfuscation occurring here.

In particular, the fifth and sixth chapter’s tackling the subjects of “evil” and “science” are timely responses to “new” positions promoted by the most famous authors from the “New Atheist” movement, such as Dr. Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens. Specifically, the discussion of perspective on understanding evil and the possibility of good coming from it are important. The recognition of the limit of human understanding in deference to God is clearly written and logically defended. As Turek surmises, “…evil turns out to be an even bigger problem for atheism. Christianity has a reasonable explanation for evil and a solution to it. Atheism has neither.”

The audience for this book is wide – individual readers will find a solidly presented apologetic on a number of current topics, groups will find ample fodder for discussion and learning. Likewise, pastors and other leaders who are regularly confronted with opposing viewpoints will find this book an excellent primer on Christian apologetics.

Turek holds an earned doctorate in Christian Apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary and has authored or co-authored three other books: I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist, Correct, Not Politically Correct and Legislating Morality.  He hosts the weekly television programs I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist and CrossExamined With Frank Turek.

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

Friday, January 16, 2015

Book Review: Esther: Royal Beauty



Esther: Royal Beauty
By Angela Hunt
Bethany House, 2015
English, 352 pgs

Description:
When an ambitious tyrant threatens genocide against the Jews, an inexperienced young queen must take a stand for her people.

When Xerxes, king of Persia, issues a call for beautiful young women, Hadassah, a Jewish orphan living in Susa, is forcibly taken to the palace of the pagan ruler. After months of preparation, the girl known to the Persians as Esther wins the king's heart and a queen's crown. But because her situation is uncertain, she keeps her ethnic identity a secret until she learns that an evil and ambitious man has won the king's permission to exterminate all Jews--young and old, powerful and helpless. Purposely violating an ancient Persian law, she risks her life in order to save her people...and bind her husband's heart.

Review:
I really enjoyed this novelization of the story of Esther. The story is told from a rotating point of view, between Esther and Harbonah (the king's eunich), which is unique to any other stories I've read about Esther. The eunich's point of view serves to help us understand the king and his motivation better and to tell a lot of the historical background of the story.

I was extremely impressed with how well researched the book is. I can't recall another fiction book lately that has had footnotes at the end. There are parts that the author admits she had to "fill in" and fictionalize but they are consistent with the story and the Biblical account of Esther.

I love how personal it got with her and the king's children and how she was torn about her love for the king, since he was of a different faith.  I found it really hard to put down and have already recommended it to other women I know in the church!

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

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Book Review: The Daniel Fast

The Ultimate Guide to The Daniel Fast
By Kristen Feola
Zondervan, 2010
English, 224 pages

Description:
The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast is an inspiring resource for Christians who want to pursue a more intimate relationship with God through the 21-day commitment to prayer and fasting known as the Daniel Fast. As you deny yourself certain foods - such as sugars, processed ingredients, and solid fats - you will not only embrace healthier eating habits, you’ll also discover a greater awareness of God’s presence. Author Kristen Feola explains the Daniel Fast in easy-to-understand language, provides 21 thought-provoking devotionals for each day of the fast, and shares more than 100 tasty, easy-to-make recipes that follow fasting guidelines. In a conversational style, Feola helps you structure the fast so you can spend less time thinking about what to eat and more time focusing on God.

You will also discover that “to fast” means “to feast” on the only thing that truly nourishes? God’s powerful Word. For more info, please visit www.ultimatedanielfast.com.

Review:
This is a simple to read and use quick start for a Daniel Fast. It's based on the book of Daniel in the Bible where Daniel refuses to eat the rich food at the Babylonian court. He asks to be tested on a simple diet and ends up healthier than the others who were eating all the delicacies and rich foods.

The book describes fasting and why it's important and how to prepare before the fast begins. It also gives you 21 days of devotions and a lot of recipes to get through the three week fast. The fast is intended to be a start to a healthier diet and lifestyle. It gives you a nice list of foods to eat and foods to avoid. (It's going to be hard to give up caffeine/coffee...) Really though, the list isn't bad. It's getting all the junk out of our diets that I'm not entirely sure we're supposed to be eating anyway. Sugars, refined carbs, dairy, meat, bread and artificial sweeteners...it's a heavy list but the point is well made that it's 21 days to make your body healthier.

The recipes and meal plans are really easy and I'm looking forward to trying them as we start our 21 day fast. We're still in the planning and preparing phase but we're looking forward to the changes it will make in our bodies and diets.

I received a copy of the book in exchange for a review on my blog and a commercial bookselling website. No additional compensation has been received and I was not required to write a positive review. This is not intended in ANY WAY as medical advice.







Saturday, December 20, 2014

Book Review: Pray the Scriptures When Life Hurts

Pray the Scriptures When Life Hurts
By Kevin Johnson
Bethany House, 2014
English, 128 pgs


Description:
Find Hope Through Praying the Scriptures

What do you do when prayer feels futile, an endless rehashing of your problems? If one of the most practical reasons we pray is to obtain strength from God, then we need to understand how that happens. Prayer is about more than making requests. In addition to our agony and questioning, Scripture teaches us to also offer up our surrender. We can voice not only loneliness, resentment, and frustration but also peace, hope, and worship. When we let Scripture teach us a breadth of prayers, we begin to be filled with God's fresh life.

Interweaving his own story of inner anguish and physical illness, Kevin Johnson takes you through nine key Scripture passages that will help you find peace. Each passage is broken down into smaller portions, paired with short phrases to prompt you to pray Scripture back to God.

Learn how to talk to God in your pain.

About the Author:
Kevin Johnson is the creator of the first-of-its-kind Pray the Scriptures Bible and the bestselling author or coauthor of more than fifty books and Bible products for adults, students, and children. With a background as a youth worker, senior editor, and teaching pastor, he now leads Emmaus Road Church in greater Minneapolis. Kevin is married to Lyn, and they have three grown children. Learn more at www.kevinjohnsonbooks.com.

Review:
 This is a fairly short, 10 chapter, book which can be used to help you deal with your emotions and hurts in a Biblical way. The chapters cover agony, loneliness, questions, resentment, requests, frustration, peace, surrender and hope. I like that the author is raw and open about his life and uses lots of examples from personal struggles. There is much wisdom in this book. 

Each book has a few short pages of devotion/instruction and then several journaling style prompts using the Bible to work through the discussed emotion. I also like that the book doesn't only handle "negative" emotions. It has a very uplifting tone.

I'm not sure about the use of this book. Obviously it is useful for those who are struggling, but I think it's more of a personal study guide than a group workbook. It could be used that way, but I think it would be more effective in use with a counselor or a very small group.

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

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Book Review: Skeletons In God's Closet

Skeleton's in God's Closet
By Joshua Ryan Butler
Thomas Nelson, 2014
English, 384 pgs

Description:
How can a loving God send people to hell? Isn’t it arrogant to believe Jesus is the only way to God? What is up with holy war in the Old Testament?
Many of us fear God has some skeletons in the closet. Hell, judgment, and holy war are hot topics for the Christian faith that have a way of igniting fierce debate far and wide. These hard questions leave many wondering whether God is really good and can truly be trusted.
The Skeletons in God's Closet confronts our popular caricatures of these difficult topics with the beauty and power of the real thing. Josh Butler reveals that these subjects are consistent with, rather than contradictory to, the goodness of God. He explores Scripture to reveal the plotlines that make sense of these tough topics in light of God’s goodness. From fresh angles, Josh deals powerfully with such difficult passages as:
  • The Lake of Fire
  • Lazarus and the Rich Man
  • The Slaughter of Canaanites in the Old Testament
Ultimately, The Skeletons in God's Closet uses our toughest questions to provoke paradigm shifts in how we understand our faith as a whole. It pulls the “skeletons out of God’s closet” to reveal they were never really skeletons at all.

About the Author
Josh Butler serves as pastor of local and global outreach at Imago Dei Community, a church in the heart of Portland, Oregon. Josh oversees the church's city ministries in areas like foster care, human trafficking and homelessness; and develops international partnerships in areas like clean water, HIV-support and church planting. Josh is also a worship leader who enjoys writing music for the life of the church.

Review:

By the title alone, one could rightly wonder what sort of theological approach Butler might be taking with The Skeletons In God’s Closet. Butler serves as pastor of local and global outreach at Imago Dei Community church of Portland, Oregon. Imago Dei is located in a challenging, “post-Christian” field for ministry in famously “liberal” leaning city. The perspective that he brings is worthwhile and needed for modern outreach. For those who have been reared in the Christian faith, much of what is presented here might seem somewhat obvious. However, Butler’s intended audience is clearly those who have only a passing understanding of Christianity and the book is written to engage that audience.
 
Major questions answered include the perennial “doubting” favorites: how can a loving God send people to hell? Isn’t it arrogant to believe Jesus is the only way to God? The subtitle itself is clearly intended to engage – when one further titles a book with “the mercy of Hell, the surprise of judgment, the hope of Holy war,” there is obvious intention to elicit a response.
 
The theology presented is itself orthodox Christianity. Butler explains that he was originally caught unprepared to give an answer for some of the more difficult to understand portions of the Bible, forcing him to look deeply into the Word to understand God’s intentions. The perspective that he brings is presented in an engaging writing style. Butler doesn’t bludgeon the reader with dry theology, rather giving the perspective on God’s purposes in easy-to-read language. By confronting the caricatures of doctrinal division points and explaining the purpose of each, Butler provides biblically based sound perspective on each.
 
This book might at first glance seem ill suited to aiding mature believers. However, the tone and approach is extremely useful from a point of developing understanding and skill in apologetics. The questions asked are salient, widespread, and worthy of discussion. The Skeletons In God’s Closet is a useful tool for small groups, new believer discipleship, and for individual believers willing to speak to misunderstandings about the Christian faith.
 

I received a copy of the book from the publisher 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.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Book Review: Churchless

Churchless: Understanding Today's Unchurched and How to Connect With Them
By The Barna Group (George Barna and David Kinnaman, Editors)
Tyndale Momentum, 2014
English, 224 pgs

Description:
Churchless people are all around us: among our closest loved ones, at our workplaces, in our neighborhoods. And more and more, they are becoming the norm: The number of churchless adults in the US has grown by nearly one-third in the past decade. Yet the startling truth is that many of these people claim they are looking for a genuine, powerful encounter with God—but they just don’t find it in church. What are they (or we) missing? How can we better reach out to them? What can we say or do that would inspire them to want to join a community of faith? Containing groundbreaking new research from the Barna Group, and edited by bestselling authors George Barna (Revolution) and David Kinnaman (You Lost Me), Churchless reveals the results of a five-year study based on interviews with thousands of churchless men and women. Looking past the surface of church attendance to deeper spiritual realities, Churchless will help us understand those who choose not to be part of a church, build trust-based relationships with them, and be empowered to successfully invite them to engage.


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

Attempting to divine understanding of viewpoints and motivations from data is daunting task, particularly with a research topic regarding belief and corresponding church attendance. However, the Barna Group has done an outstanding job gleaning understanding from more than five years of research into American trends and beliefs regarding church attendance. General Editors George Barna and David Kinnaman have compiled and distilled a tremendous amount of data into useful information regarding the current state of church attendance, what is motivating thecurrent Millennial generation’s choices, and the efficacy of outreach tools.

This book is going to be found useful by churches who are sincerely seeking and understanding of the viewpoints and desires of a generation that increasingly views church attendance (and membership) as less important than preceding generations. Techniques using mass media (direct mailings, advertising attempts, etc.) are indicated as being bypassed completely. However, cross-generational connections through testimony leadership, acts of service, and meaningful community interactions through the church are demonstrated as more likely to generate positive interest. To this reviewer, the data supports that the core concepts of intentional discipleship, personal testimony and authentic Christian service as described in the Great Commission and throughout the New Testament are the most effective means of reaching the Millennial generation.

Some of the data presented in this collection may be disturbing for those readers comfortable in a “business as usual” mentality. According to the data, less than 50 percent of American adults are considered “actively churched.” However, closer examination of that statistic demonstrates that “actively churched” means attending a church at least one time per month. Many in church circles might dispute that definition as “active”. Likewise, the rising number of “dechurched” – now at 35 percent – should be alarming.

This reviewer gleans that churches should seriously consider their outreach efforts. Impersonal mass media is clearly declining as an effective means of outreach, but this may be a positive development. Churches need to return to their historic (and scripturally prescribed) mandate to personally make disciples through intentional teaching. As they do so, lovingly caring for their community through sincere and consistent service will speak more to Millennials than slick advertising and programs.

This book is ideal for church leadership – pastors, deacons, elders, teachers – or even small groups desiring to understand the perspectives of those whom they are attempting to reach with the Gospel.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Book Review: The Forgotten Knight

The Forgotten Knight
By Emilie DeRitter
Outskirts Press, 2014
English, 228 pgs

Description:
Sir Christopher of Calidore has had better days. He has no kingdom to defend, he is locked in a curse, and then he found himself swimming a moat and battling a wizard - all to rescue the most spoiled princess in Christendom. Now, he and his companion, a mysterious sorceress who was once advisor to his former liege, are escorting the opinionated princess home. Along the way, they are forced to battle evil and help those they find in need. With a little assistance from some strange friends during their journey, they struggle to find a way to change their destinies, break the curse that binds them together and reclaim their lives.

Review:
I received a complimentary copy of the book from the author for the purpose of this review.

For a first novel, this is outstanding. It is an adventure with humor and a touch of romance. The characters are so well developed. Ms. DeRitter has done a fantastic job of conceiving a "fairy tale" land and characters. I kinda wish it didn't end as it did so there would be more from the story in the future, but it is a satisfactory ending. The only thing it was missing for me was a map so I could visualize the journey. I particularly enjoyed the ogre and dragon cave parts.

The book is available through Amazon.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Book Review: Beloved Dust

Beloved Dust
By Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel
Nelson Books, 2014
English, 205 pgs

Description:
Pastor Jamin Goggin and theology professor Kyle Strobel provide a path to abiding with God.
We were formed from the dust, but we were made for life with God. We often accept less. We make promises and set goals to try and grow, but holiness seems impossible. But the Christian life is not about looking or feeling like a Christian. It’s about abiding in God.

If communion with God is your goal, self-help strategies and personal resolutions will fail you. But Jesus Christ will not.

Drawing deeply from Scripture and narrating their own experiences, Pastor Jamin Goggin and theology professor Kyle Strobel wrote this book to be a companion for your journey with Jesus in the truth of yourself – as his beloved dust. This is not weighing tasks and rewards, but is a process of patience, prayer, and openheartedness.

Prayerfully read this book. Prepare your heart for the gifts God has for you. Beloved Dust invites readers to discover the fundamental simplicity and radical transformation of being with God.

About the Author
Jamin Goggin serves as Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Saddleback Church. He holds an MA in Spiritual Formation and and an MA in New Testament from Talbot School of Theology and is currently earning a PhD in Theology. He lives in Orange County, California.

Kyle Strobel serves as an assistant professor of Spiritual Theology at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, and speaks broadly on spiritual formation, theology and the life of the church. Kyle holds a BA in Biblical Studies, master’s degrees in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics as well as New Testament Studies, and a PhD in Systematic Theology. He lives in Fullerton, California.


Review:
I cannot find anything wrong with the book theologically or Biblically. It is sound teaching. However, I found it to be very dry teaching. I can read a book in a day or two and this one was just not something that I was able to get through very quickly. It felt like the pages were multiplying as I read it.

The basis of the book is great. We are created beings and we cannot thrive when we seek to become like the Creator under our own power. We cannot seek to become greater than the Creator. We have to see ourselves for what we are and we have to accept that we have to have His help in any endeavor. Especially an endeavor to become closer to Him. We don't have it within ourselves to do this. We are totally dependent on Jesus and His mercy and grace in our lives. 

 I can see this book as extremely useful for both a new Christian who wants to explore and grow in their relationship with Jesus. I can also see this book as extremely useful for a "seasoned" Christian who needs to allow revival in their life.


I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review on both this blog and a commercial bookselling site. No additional compensation has been or will be received as a result of this review.



Saturday, November 1, 2014

Book Review: Exploring Christian Theology, Volume One

Exploring Christian Theology, Volume One
Nathan D. Holsteen and Michael J. Svigel, General Editors
Bethany House, 2014
English, 272 pgs

From the Back Cover

The Foundations of Theology in Everyday Language
Dallas Seminary professors Nathan Holsteen and Michael Svigel are passionate about the key doctrines of Christianity. They want readers to know why they're important and why they matter. This volume includes two parts:
  • How Firm a Foundation: Revelation, Scripture, and Truth
  • God in Three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
The authors explore these important topics in a concise and highly readable style that makes sense--whether you're a student of the Bible, a pastor, or someone who simply wants to know God better.

For each topic you'll find
  • An introduction, overview, and review of the key points
  • Several applicable Bible texts, including verses to memorize
  • A quick-paced history of the doctrine
  • Distortions to be aware of and avoid
  • Reading lists for further study
  • A glossary of theological terms

Review:
As a former Religious Education student and a current pastor's wife, I found this book to be exceedingly well done. I appreciate that the authors do not rush through the topics. They carefully explain each one. While the language can be at times studious, it is a fairly easy book to read. The glossary at the back of the book really can help those who may not have much study in the past. The beginning part of the book, called The Christian Story in Four Acts is a brief, yet thorough, overview of really the history of all mankind.

I appreciate the copious charts, graphs and illustrations. They do not distract from the topic and in some cases, can help clarify a difficult concept. The lists of books for further study are immense.

My husband is impressed enough with this book that we have already ordered the previous volume which was released in January 2014 (so how is this V1?) and will be ordering the next when it comes out. He believes these are essential to his ministry library.

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