Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Book Review: Read at the Feet of Jesus

     BookSneeze on behalf of Thomas Nelson Publishing graced me with a complimentary copy of Jesus: A Theograpy in exchange for an honest review.  Authors Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola set out to bring together a look at Jesus' life as well as the theology behind the narrative. They certainly accomplished their goal. Not only does the reader see the historical figure of Jesus in a biographical frame, but also the emotions, beliefs and cultural background that drove Jesus to act.  Drawing from history and cultural insights the childhood and preceding years before His ministry are touched upon, which is rather rare.
     Most begin the Jesus narrative in the manger, however Sweet and Viola began where the story begins at Genesis, even a bit before as God has always been. From beginning to eternity the authors connect the dots for the reader and bring them into the story. The book points the reader to the First Testament archetypes and the fulfillment of them in Jesus in the Second Testament. The parallels that are drawn out in black and white are astounding and humbling. If every intricacy is brought into the scope of His truth and therefore a believer's faith no one can deny His abundant love for His creation. They also wisely chose to look at the Bible as one narrative, rather than two, adamantly proclaiming the same God is present in both Testaments. The Old Testament and New Testament are referred to as the First Testament and Second Testament respectively, to drive the point home.
     Jesus isn't a book to casually keep at the nightstand and pick up occasionally to cure insomnia. The breadth and depth contained in the book is staggering and could be read many times over. Sometimes I have a hard time engaging in my current read which at first was the case with this one. Once, I was midway into it I wanted more and more at the turn of every page. Sweet and Viola they don't simply tell a story; they walk with you through the story. I found my heart thumping in anticipation at the Cross with tears blurring my vision. I was convicted of sin as Jesus' love played out through history. 
     If you want to meet Jesus for the first time pick up this book. If you want to know Jesus better and more intimately grab this volume and dig in. If you want to study Jesus' life and see in between the lines of the Bible start here. If you want to invigorate your walk come join His journey again. Emotionally I became intertwined with Jesus more than I was before. I hope Jesus is more than you can imagine and bears witness of His story.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Book Review: Beauty from Ashes

     Tyndale Publishing provided a complimentary copy of Tangled Ashes in exchange for a review. Author Michele Phoenix transports the reader back in time to Lamorlaye, France during World War II. First the reader is introduced to two women, more like teenagers, that are hired to work at Meunier manor which has been made into a Nazi headquarters. One of them meets a soldier and love ensues. Although the two French women, Marie and Elise, only took the jobs to supplement their families meager existence,  they end up in midst of a medical experiment of Hitler's regime.
     In alternating chapters, the reader will be transported back into the 1990s and meet the reclusive architect, Marshall Becker. He is hired to restore the manor to a time of great splendor and majesty.  The owner envisions an inn of the highest quality and puts his trust into Becker to bring that vision to reality. As he begins the restoration, Becker finds himself fighting his own demons and the distant memories of a time past at the manor.
     The character development throughout Tangled Ashes is profound and palpable. Becker, whose life is but a facade, becomes a part of a personal restoration project. Due to his past hurt, he barricades his heart in anger lashing out at anyone who comes too close. Jade, the nanny of the owner's children, tries to mask her issues with a happy, joyful front. Yet, her strong will and determination to live life well enables her to confront Becker's addictions. Then, there are the elusive characters that come and go. As I read this story, the mystery that shrouds these characters is slowly lifted. Towards the end of Tangled Ashes one knows they tie the two story lines together.
     I literally could not put this book down. I read it's 371 pages in less than a day. I simply had to know what the next chapter held. I realized the past year how much I enjoy historical fiction. The story's intricacies made this one top-notch. It is gripping, engaging and enticing. It is thought-provoking and sad, hopeful and deep. Sometimes I wanted to slap Becker awake to the life in front of him that he protects himself from. At other times, I wanted to reach into the abyss and trace the footsteps of  Marie and her flight to freedom.
     Tangled Ashes is not a book you will likely forget anytime soon. The story is too riveting for that. The tragedy in it pulls you in and the hope keeps you looking forward. Something beautiful emerges from the ashes. This is a love story, but not a romance. The end is unexpected and memorable. If you are a historical fiction fan Tangled Ashes will be one to add to your collection and sit well above the rest. I cannot wait to read more from Michele Phoenix.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Book Review: What We are All Reeling For

     In exchange for an honest review WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing provided a complimentary copy of The Fourth Fisherman: How Three Mexican Fisherman Who Came Back from the Dead Changed My Life and Saved My Marriage.  One man is in the storm of life; three fisherman are literally enduring a storm. One man is trying to stay afloat in life; three fisherman are trying to stay afloat for their very lives. Author Joe Kissack seemed to have it all: a high-powered media career, a supportive wife and two little girls to cap off his success. From the outside he was no doubt the envy of many.  Inside he was a mess and eventually grabbed on to alcohol and medications when what Kissack really needed was a Lifesaver. It took years of self-destruction before he grabbed hold in faith to Jesus Christ.
     Five Mexican fisherman set sail one day only to meet a storm that changed their lives forever. Between sea turtles and sharks, God's Word and faith three of the men survived ten months lost at sea. Now, I'm sure you are wondering where in the world do these two seemingly unrelated stories intersect? By divine appointment and drive. Kissack recounts his lows and his track to a spiritual top. After committing his life to Christ, entering an outpatient rehabilitation center and counseling with his wife does he begin to see life for what it is, the inherent value within. Subsequently, he hears the story of the fisherman on the news and knows he must meet these men. He sees himself in them, in their trials and hardships, perseverance and faith. It was not to be a part of the media circus, but to uplift these men and other's through their story. Even today Kissack is still a part of this quest.
    As I read the first chapter I was wondering how arrogant is this author and what kind of book is this. As Kissack recounts his story one realizes how far he has come emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. We all build walls to protect ourselves and now he is showing what is were made of. Many can learn from him and be driven to faith or a faith of deeper content when we let our walls come down. Even in the stories of the fisherman Kissack explains what makes these men who they are.
     The Fourth Fisherman demonstrates that no matter what our circumstances are we will all face storms and have a choice. We can either reach for temporal, worldly things of insignificance or turn to our faith that will sustain us. Just as Kissack learned God has plans greater than we can fathom and plans that are beyond ourselves. Now that he sees that, he has been able to use his life experiences, talents and passions to further God's kingdom.
     I am utterly amazed by his concise writing skills. The author was able to pen a lifetime's worth of highs and lows, while retelling the story of the fisherman in a book a little over 200 pages. The chapters are short which makes it a nice and light read, yet each chapter encapsulates significant information. If you are sinking in the sea or know someone who is The Fourth Fisherman would be an ideal place to reel in some inspiration. You may just hook onto the Lifesaver.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Book Review: Another Lucado Best

    BookSneeze on behalf of Thomas Nelson Publishing has graced me with a complimentary copy of  Lucado's latest, Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine in exchange for a review. The word grace seems simple enough, yet it is God's love gift to his children that is indescribable. Through personal accounts, biblical narratives and beautiful imagery grace seems a little easier to grasp after reading Grace. Mr. Lucado captures the meaning of grace, what it looks like lived out and how to accept the greatest God-given gift ever.  So many people seem to live with their pressure guage pushing the limits trying to work their way into heaven. Lucado points the reader to a way that is by far easier and more sound. God's grace will cover you, change you and bring you a little closer to heaven.
     Author Max Lucado has penned another best-seller on a topic he has covered before. Which doesn't sound like much of a compliment, does it? I write that with the utmost respect for the author and his work as I am a fan. In fact, out of all of the authors I have read, Lucado stands out to me as a man who knows grace well. However, God's great grace cannot be contained in a few pages or even a few books. Lucado could keep delving into the depths of grace and never quite capture its magnificence. And yet, Lucado makes a beautiful go at it with words that seem to flow from his soul onto the page.
     I was surprised to see this book was a little over 150 pages long. Here's my reasoning. Grace is a great theological topic and one would assume many words could be, or even should be, devoted to such a topic. But, that is where the magic of Max Lucado, well God's inspiration, comes into play. He has a way with words that can elaborate on a topic and vividly capture the subject matter without getting too preachy or wordy. 
     Grace is a book for the new believer, the mature Christian or the searching unbeliever. Basically, the book will attract a wide audience. It would be a great volume to add to your collection, to study grace further or share with a neighbor. A nice, comprehensive study is included in the latter part of the book. May you know God's grace and experience it fully. Blessings!