Monday, October 20, 2014

Book review: Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary

Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary: New and Enhanced Edition
General Editor: Ronald F. Youngblood
Thomas Nelson, 2014
English, 1280 pgs

Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary is the most comprehensive and up-to-date Bible dictionary available. With a fresh new look and updated photographs, this new and enhanced edition is a wealth of basic study information with more than 7,000 entries plus more than 500 full-color photographs, maps, and pronunciation guides.
Features include:
  • Cross-references to major translations
  • More than 7,000 up-to-date entries
  • More than 500 full-color photographs and maps
  • Enlarged type size for easier reading
  • Visual Survey of the Bible from The Open Bible
About the Editor and Contributors
Ronald F. Youngblood is Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew Emeritus, Bethel Seminary San Diego.
F.F. Bruce (1910-1990) was Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis, University of Manchester in England.
R.K. Harrison (1920-1993) was Professor of Old Testament at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto.

This is a well done new edition of the Bible Dictionary. It has been revised using the most current and up to date findings in the field of Biblical research, archaeology and language study. The photos are larger and more abundant than in the previous edition (which I borrowed from the church library for comparison). The type is a little larger and easier to read. But what I like the best from this new edition is the outline and study guides for the books of the Bible. There are charts and diagrams and maps to help in understanding. There is Bible referencing within the articles for those who wish to study a subject further (or like me, get on a tangent...). For instance, in the article on Jesus, there are scriptures noted through it to guide you back to the Bible for the prophesies and life stories which are mentioned in the article.

The writing is clear and understandable, yet at the same time informative and authoritative. It is obvious much care has gone into the updating of the information by the team of editors. It tells you in the introduction that there are cross-references within the articles to point you to another article that will help in the understanding. I've been searching for examples and haven't found as many as I thought there would be. However, you can find articles on virtually every name, place, tribe and doctrine so if you see something as you're reading that you would like more information on, it is probably in there.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher 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.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book Review: A Matter of Heart

A Matter of Heart (Lone Star Brides 3)
By Tracie Peterson
Bethany House, 2014
English, 320 pgs

Texas born and raised Jessica Atherton is a wealthy young woman whose heart was broken when the man she intended to marry wedded another. But her world is upended when two new men come into her life, and both manage to stir her heart.

Harrison Gable is a successful young lawyer with ambitions that match Jessica's dreams. His warm, attentive manner and thoughtful gifts make her feel special.

Austin Todd, a former Secret Service agent, enjoys working now as a Texas Ranger cattle inspector. But after learning of forged gold certificates and missing printing plates, he's drawn back into the world of intrigue and agrees to help solve the case. Jessica is drawn to his kind nature and the unspoken pain she sees in his eyes.

If Jessica follows her heart, where will it lead?

This is the third book in the Lone Star Brides series by Tracie Peterson. The book wraps up many lingering story lines from books 1 and 2 (when Marty went to Colorado and when Alice and Robert marry) while giving a spotlight to Jessica, who was a minor character in book 2.

I was really satisfied with the story wrap ups as well as the new story line. I didn't care too much for Jessica at the beginning of the book but she ends up working on being a better person and there is a lot of discussion on how God helps us become better people and how we can't really change on our own.

There was a lot more "church" in this book than the other two and I was actually pleased about it. It didn't get preachy but it was truthful and stuck to the lessons found in the Bible.

Now that the series is over, I feel satisfied with all three. There are no lingering "what happened" questions and I found that I really liked all the characters.

I sure do wish there had been a recipe for those cinnamon rolls....

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

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Book Review: Messy, Beautiful Love

Messy, Beautiful Love
By Darlene Schacht
Thomas Nelson, 2014
English, 240 pgs

Love gets messy.

Financial problems, sickness, aging parents, a chronically unhappy spouse . . . trials will inevitably come along to threaten your marriage. No matter how long you've been married or how strong your relationship is, sooner or later you are going to have a mess to clean up.

Messy Beautiful Love is about cleaning up messes God's way, exchanging our ideas for his, and being prepared for both the best and the worst that marriage has to offer.

Perhaps you've picked up this book because your marriage is messy already-now is the time to make a change. If your marriage is tidy, thank God-there is no better time to prepare for the future.

Married life is never straightforward or simple for long. But the reality is this: when you surrender your relationship to God; when you lay your marriage at his feet; when you finally cede control; then and only then will you experience the blessing of marriage as he intended-this is the blessing of obedience.

Messy Beautiful Love is an invitation to that obedience. An invitation to surrender. The cynical world says marriages don't last. God knows better. Tune out the world and tune in to him. When you do that, a beautiful marriage is not only possible-it's inevitable. That's something to be excited about.

About the Author
Darlene Schacht is the original founder of Christian Women Online Magazine and The Internet CafĂ© Devotions and writes the popular blog Time-Warp Wife. She is coauthor of Candace Cameron Bure’s New York Time’s best-selling book, Reshaping It All: Motivation for Physical and Spiritual Fitness. Darlene has been married to Michael Schacht for more than 25 years. They have four children.

This is one of the better "relationship" books I've read in a long time. I appreciate that the author is very frank and honest about her relationship issues in the past and how real she is in sharing about how her life and marriage were impacted and restored.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who is struggling in a marriage, anyone who is about to be married, anyone who is in a happy marriage....anyone who wants to discover what God wants in a marriage and wants to build a lasting relationship based on God's word.

My only criticism is that the author uses New King James Version of the Bible for most of her quotes and that made it a little hard to read, in my opinion. And that is only because I'm just not used to the language in that particular translation. 

The book has 15 chapters which, at one a day, makes it really easy to read in a short time. However, I think you should take your time with it. Study the Scriptures she discusses and really give time to the end of chapter challenges.

So much of this book is now seen as "counter-culture" in that it emphasizes that the man is the head of the family, being patient and compassionate, communicate lovingly and being content and virtuous in your marriage and life. However, this is exactly how things were meant to be. God made rules and boundaries for a reason. The aren't out of malice. They're out of love and wanting the best for His people.

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

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Book Review: Undressed

Undressed: Taking Everything Off and Putting on What Matters Most
By: Mark Cornelison
Lucid Books, 2014
English, 164 pgs

"Sometimes, just when you think life is going just the way you expect, things can change. What once was normal and acceptable is replaced by a sense that there is a better life to be lived, often in surprising ways. This describes Mark Cornelison, contestant on NBC’s The Biggest Loser, before his life-changing experience on this popular show.

Mark realized that the life he was living had to look different and he gave God the freedom to, not only change him physically, but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well. This new chance to live life brought with it a message that he knew could change other people in the way it had changed him.

The world he had complicated with stuff, that we all think is important, was taken away one layer at a time. He was then clothed with a new, simple life. Now he shares the story and challenges you with what he has learned from the journey.

Come see what needs to be taken off of you so that a better you can truly live.

About the Author:
Mark Cornelison wanted to go on The Biggest Loser because he was ready to make the life changes necessary to get healthy and hoped to give his "smokin' hot wife a smokin' hot husband!" He says a poor diet and lack of exercise led him to start gaining weight in high school. As a youth pastor for more than 17 years, his weight had reached an all- time high and something had to be done.

At 43 years old and 295 pounds, Mark suffered from high blood pressure, high cholesterol and acid reflux. Mark enjoys doing volunteer work and going on mission trips, both of which were being significantly effected due to his weight. He knew it was time to make a life change when he began taking an anti-anxiety medication in efforts to deal with the side effects of his other prescriptions. A married father of three teenagers - two sons and one daughter - Mark started season 13 with his son, Chism, who gained much of his weight after an accident when he was younger.

After Mark left for the show, Cathy decided to make changes for herself so that the two of them could share this journey together. She began researching all she could about nutrition and healthy eating as well as developing a consistent exercise routine. By the time Mark returned, Cathy had lost 40 lbs. on her own and had created a home where healthy living was the norm.

Mark returned over 100lbs lighter with a new life. He currently has no medical conditions to be monitored and has been removed from all of the medications he was taking before this experience. Besides being role models to their family; their greatest joy is now having the physical and mental ability to do and be anything Christ calls them to be. After taking a stand on the show which ultimately led to Mark walking away from any and all prize possibilities with only two weeks left to go, they have both seen the doors open to sharing the truth of how God is alive and well behind the scenes in Hollywood.

Since the show ended, they have traveled across the US to encourage others. In 2012, they founded SweatCor ( and now work to communicate hope and encouragement with students and adults alike in regards to ministry and health.

In churches, Mark brings a message of what God did in and through him from this experience. his message, "People Matter" has been well received in many churches and groups across the country. It will certainly inspire your body to look past the things that life says are important and to focus on the only two things that really matter...

This experience has deeply changed them and their family...and this is still only the beginning.

I am a long-time fan of The Biggest Loser. For many years, I would watch the show and eat my ice cream and wish that I could "do what they do". Knowing full well that I would never put myself in a television situation or into a highly stressful situation away from my family for months on end. I have a lot of respect for the people who put themselves into this situation, where the good, bad and sweaty ugly are all laid bare for all of the world to see. But I took ideas, exercises, nutrition information and motivation from the show. I knew that I could make a change.

I remember the season that Mark and his son, Chism, were on the show. I remember watching them, knowing he was a youth minister and wondering how they were going to "stay real" on a show that seems to focus on the fantastic. I enjoyed the parts in the book where he gave behind the scenes information about the show. I like that he and another pastor on the show, Buddy, started a church on Sunday nights for the cast. And then the crew started coming. And then they stayed close. And then their lives spoke into a skeptic's heart. God used these men and this situation to bring a child into His arms and His home. That's what matters in the journey.

I am deeply appreciative of the words and the openness in the book. Mark speaks from the heart and tells you flat out that he didn't have it "figured out" for a long time. I know so many people who think a switch gets flipped or something when we come to know Christ. Like we're supposed to suddenly have it all together and understand everything. Well, that doesn't happen. We're still ourselves. We still have to learn and grow and seek and find. It's a process and it's the only thing in life that is 100% totally worth doing.

I'm not totally sure if this season is the one where I made a change or the next one was, but I got up and changed. I stopped making excuses and stopped doubting. I looked at life and health differently. I've lost 100 pounds in the last 5 calendar years. I've put a few back on lately and I've used every excuse for them. A foot injury. Blogging and doing product reviews. No time to exercise (even though my treadmill stares me in the face almost all day).

This book is re-motivating me. I have my tennis shoes on right now and am looking forward to the walk I'm about to go on. I'm going to get back into 5K shape. I'm going to do it again, and better and not stop this 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.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book Review: Raising Kingdom Kids

Raising Kingdom Kids
By Tony Evans
Focus on the Family, 2014
English, 272 pgs

From the bestselling author of Kingdom Man and Kingdom Woman, Raising Kingdom Kids equips parents to raise their children with a Kingdom perspective and also offers practical how-to advice on providing spiritual training as instructed in Scripture.

Dr. Tony Evans begins with an overarching look at the need for Kingdom parenting, our roles and responsibilities in raising God-following children, and how to prepare children to take on the assignments God has for their lives. He then takes a practical turn, with examples and illustrations to help parents understand and provide specific training for kids in the power of prayer, wisdom, loving God’s Word, getting through trials, controlling their tongues, developing patience, the surrender of service, and much more.

This book is for every dad or mom who wants to fulfill the parenting role God has given them—not just in raising healthy kids intellectually, physically, and socially, but in contributing to their child’s relationship with God and alignment under His plan.

From the Inside Flap:

“Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” MARK 10:14 (ESV)

Kingdom parenting is purposeful parenting—helping children learn to live under God’s divine authority, both today and in the future.

No parent does it perfectly, and most of us have regrets about the past and poor decisions we’ve made along the way. But wherever you are in your journey, it’s never too late to start anew, applying biblical principles to parenting and trusting God to bring about the growth.

In this inspiring and practical book, Dr. Tony Evans comes alongside moms and dads with understanding and affection, offering his own hard lessons learned, and easy-to-apply strategies for raising your children in the knowledge that they truly are royalty, children of the King.

No matter what challenges your kids will one day face, raise them so that their hearts will remain open toward home—and the values and principles they learned there.

This is the third in a Kingdom series from Dr. Evans, and the second I have read (after Kingdom Woman). This is focused on being a good parent and raising your children to love the Lord and serve only Him. This is not a book that should be read quickly. Dig into it. Take your time. There is truth dripping from every page and you don't want to miss any of it.

The book is divided into three sections: Establishing a Kingdom Mindset, Cultivating a Kingdom Atmosphere and Instilling Kingdom Virtues. Each section is further divided into chapters with it. The chapters are a little longer at the beginning at shorter in the last section. 

Dr. Evans is a master at story telling and pulling you into what he's saying. I've seen that in his preaching and speaking but can even feel it reading his written words.

He emphasizes that you need to look forward to not only your kids but your grandkids and future generations. What we teach is passed on and it's up to us to make sure it's the "good stuff" that makes it through to our kids.

He tells one story about how dinner time is family devotional time. We always have dinner together, but we usually talk about our days and just generally chit chat (in between telling the kids to eat their veggies or meat) about trains, school or games or nothing of consequence. My husband and I have been more intentional lately about speaking love and truth into their lives at that half hour we have their (mostly) undivided attention.

There are stories scattered throughout the book by Dr. Evans' children and I found those really interesting. It's one thing to be a person who can write a book. I appreciate that Dr. Evans has lived the life before he put the ink on the page. He writes from experience.

I actually loved the book so much, and honestly, read it pretty fast to get this review out on time, that I'm starting over and reading it with my husband so that I do not miss a single drop of truth.

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.

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.