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.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Book Review: Smart Money, Smart Kids

Smart Money, Smart Kids
By Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze
Lampo Press, 2014
English, 256 pgs

Book Description

Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze teach parents how to raise money-smart kids in a debt-filled world.
In Smart Money Smart Kids, financial expert and best-selling author Dave Ramsey and his daughter Rachel Cruze equip parents to teach their children how to win with money. Starting with the basics like working, spending, saving, and giving, and moving into more challenging issues like avoiding debt for life, paying cash for college, and battling discontentment, Dave and Rachel present a no-nonsense, common-sense approach for changing your family tree.

This is not the first book on teaching kids about money that I have read. But it will be the first that I put into practice. I tried the Money Makeover many years ago and failed at my attempt, but I've always known that Mr. Ramsey was smart about money and that his advice was something that I should follow.

Dave comes at money problems from a different perspective than Rachel. I like that she calls him a surgeon where she is a preventative medicine. I don't ever want my sons to deal with the crushing weight of debt and I want them to learn the value of work.

I'm really happy that I've read this book. I have set up jars for both of my boys so they can see their spending and saving money grow. I'm still trying to figure out all the details of how to make things work (like how much to pay for working and when to pay) but that's because my husband hasn't read it yet and we're going to work it out together.

I've been so motivated by the book that I'm looking into restarting the Money Makeover for our family. I'm committed and ready to get going.

Favorite quotes:
  • Work creates discipline, and when you have discipline in your life, you are a healthier person.
  • Giving his own money changes a child's whole understanding of giving.
  • Personal finance is 80 percent behavior; it's only 20 percent head knowledge.
  • You must teach them (your children) that they don't own money - the are simply managers, or stewards of it.
  • A budget creates boundaries.
  • Your child needs to know as early as possible that debt in any form will wreck his future financial success.
  • The debt-free college plan isn't always easy, but it is definitely the best way in the long run.
  • If you want to raise money-smart kids, you have to raise kids who are content.
  • Hearing and accepting the word no does something wonderful for your child: it teaches her boundaries.

More information is available at if you're interested in learning what he teaches about debt and budgeting.

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

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Book Review: Beautiful on the Mountain

Beautiful on the Mountain
By Jeannie Light
Tyndale Momentum, 2014
English, 304 pgs

Amazon Product Description:
If you enjoyed the classic novel Christy and the bestselling Mitford series, then you’ll love Beautiful on the Mountain, a real-life tale about serving God in unlikely circumstances. In 1977, Jeannie Light left her fine plantation home amid heartbreak and came to Graves Mill, a tiny hamlet in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Alone in an utterly new kind of life, Jeannie was determined to find the courage to make a fresh start.

To Jeannie’s surprise, she found herself called upon by her new neighbors to open the old, deteriorated country church, a place that had once united the fractured community of mountain folk. With no training, and no small amount of trepidation, she undertook the task. And as she embarked on an unforeseen series of adventures, from heartbreaking to hilarious, Jeannie would learn more than she ever expected about faith, loving your neighbor, and doing the work that God sets in front of you. Because sometimes, God calls us to go where there is no path . . . and leave a trail.

From the Back of the Book:
She kept a .44 on the bedpost and a Bible at the Ready

When Jeannie Light came to Graves Mill in 1977, she was sure God had led her there. She's left her plantation home amid heartbreak, determined to make a fresh start by caring for the fragile tract of Blue Ridge Mountain land that was suddenly hers. But did God know what He was doing, sending her into a wilderness populated with bear hunters, poachers, and the last of the mountain people?

Jeannie had plans, but God had surprises. Her new neighbors asked her to "get the ol' church open" -- a crumbling, abandoned country church that had once united the community. The ouside world said it couldn't be done; that the hollows were too poor and isolated for a church to survive. But with no training, and no small amount of trepidation, Jeannie undertook the challenge.

Beautiful on the Mountain is the true story of Jeannie's heartbreaking and hilarious adventures in Graves Mill as she set out with her trusty dog, Tallis, by her side -- and learned more than she's ever dreamed about faith, loving your neighbor, and doing the work that God sets in front of you. Because sometimes, God calls us to go where there is no path ... and to leave a trail.

My Review:
I'm not typically a fan of biography books, but I enjoyed this one. Jeannie writes in a very personal and honest way that draws you into her adventures and experiences. You come to care about the community, with all the assorted, and sometimes crazy, people.

I appreciate that Jeannie expresses that this was not an easy undertaking, that she had doubts and that she was willing to submit herself and her dreams to God's direction. Her story should be encouraging to someone starting in a mission field or someone who just wants to be used by God for His purposes.

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

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Book Review: Queen Vernita Visits Gator Country

Queen Vernita Visits Gator Country
By Dawn Menge
Outskirts Press, 2014
English, 33 pgs

Amazon Product Description:
The latest installment of Dawn Menge's award-winning Queen Vernita series finds Queen Vernita of Oceaneer on the road once again. Vernita has many friends, not only in her kingdom, but all over the world. In Queen Vernita Visits Gator Country, these friends invite her on a year-long journey through the American South. She spends a month with each friend who teaches her about the rich culture, music, food and history from this part of our country. Beginning on the first of January, Vernita arrives in Gator Country, where her friend Neomi introduces her to the world of Jazz. Vernita marvels at this vibrant blend of African and European music. On each day of the week, Vernita learns a new exciting fact about Jazz, including how it has evolved over the past century. At the end of January, she says a sad goodbye to Neomi, then she's off to sail down the Mississippi (and learns how to spell Mississippi!). She spends the month of February on a paddleboat with her dear friend Sidney, who tells her all about paddleboats: that they date back to the Roman Empire and were once powered by oxen, and even men! From Joachim, Vernita studies the many forms of life inhabiting the bayou; including the plants, crawfish, and catfish. When it's time to learn about the gators, Vernita travels with her friend Albert, and even holds a baby gator in her hands! In the course of her travels, Vernita also learns about the often forgotten history of the South: the period before the Civil War, when many people lived on plantations and owned slaves. Thankfully, the brave souls ran the Underground Railroad helped slaves escape via a secret pipeline to the North. Throughout the year, Queen Vernita and her readers learn something new and fascinating with every step of the way. It fosters a love of learning, and a curiosity about the people, animals, and natural wonders of our world. It's also a fun way for kids to learn the months and the days of the week.

About the Author:
Dawn Menge is the author of the Queen Vernita's educational series. Her series has won 19 literary awards. Queen Vernita's adventures include: Queen Vernita's Visitors, Queen Vernita Visits the Blue Ice Mountains, Queen Vernita Meets Sir HealthyBean,  and Queen Vernita Explores the Oceaneer's Coastline.
For more information visit
The book is available for purchase through the link above, as well as on Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

When the opportunity to review this book was presented, I jumped at the chance. We're not too far from Louisiana and have been toying with the idea of going there in the coming summer. I wanted to find a book to start teaching my boys about where we would be going.

The book is very educational. Queen Vernita learns seven things about whichever adventure she is having.

January = Jazz
February = paddleboats and the Mississippi River
March = Mardi Gras
April = alligators
May = French Quarter
June = Audubon Park, Zoo and Aquarium
July = plantation life
August = Oak Alley plantation
September = slavery
October = Underground Railroad
November = bayou life
December = African American tribes

The art work is colorful and appropriate for each month's "lessons".

My only issue with the book is that it reads a little difficult. The "days" that Vernita learns the facts feels more like a text book than a story book. I understand that the purpose of the book is to teach, but I think it could have been done in a more lyrical style and that would have been easier to read.

My youngest was interested in some of the pages, mainly the alligator and zoo, while my oldest got wrapped up in the slavery pages and we're starting to explain that period of time to him now.

It's useful for teaching about the state/region and I think that it would fit well into a lesson plan that was learning about the states.

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