Saturday, October 26, 2013

Book Review: Making Sense of Prophecy

Moody Publishers provided a complimentary copy of the featured book in exchange for an honest review.
     Studying eschatology for the layman can seem overwhelming, interesting at best. Frankly, even after reading Christ's Prophetic Plans: A Futuristic Premillennial Primer by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue that is still where I stand. Although, the matter is not quite as foggy as it once was. This book clearly shows through Scripture and the use of a straight-forward, literal hermeneutical approach to reading thereof, that the Futuristic Premillennial view prevails. The millennial reign of Christ will follow the rapture, tribulation and Second Coming.
     Many wonder why even study or care about prophecy. Truth be known, it shapes and/or compliments a lot of our theological beliefs. Of course, beliefs shape behavior. One interesting factor that separates Futuristic Premillennialism from other prophetic end times beliefs is Israel and its role within that framework. The Futuristic Premillennial view understands that no where in Scripture does the Christian church override the livelihood of Israel. If one does not believe Israel has a place in the future then the support thereof would be relegated to a non-existent issue. As one can see Israel seems to be the hub of political turmoil to this day. Frankly, world events make sense under a scriptural lens and a Futuristic Premillennial view.
     I cannot claim to know the subject matter well, as it is vast and still rather novel to me. However, I cannot praise the writings of MacArthur and Mayhue enough for taking a highly technical topic and breaking it down into more digestible bites. Little by little, page by page I have learned and will continue to with further study.
     Christ's Prophetic Plans is well worth the read. Whether you are a believer and want to further your knowledge or search out your beliefs this book is for you. Pastors and teachers should definitely understand this material for obvious reasons. This volume is a great starting point to jump off into the deep of eschatology.


Book Review: A Soundly-Built Book for a Soundly-Built Marriage

Lift Up Every Voice in conjunction with Moody Publishers provided a complimentary copy of the featured book in exchange for an honest review.
     Dr. Johnny C. Parker, Jr. has written a book with well-to-do advice to build or remodel a marriage upon the firm foundation of Christ. In Renovating Your Marriage Room by Room readers of both sexes will find helpful information that can invigorate stale marriages. Let's face it, marriages cycle through the good and the bad, the highs and the lows and sometimes we get stuck in the pits. Parker methodically journeys room by room, or in other words, the many facets to marriage, and asks for couples to invest in one another in a myriad of ways. The differences between men and women are respected and celebrated by one another.
      After establishing what a marriage is not, Parker establishes what a marriage can and should be. The chapters range from communication to forgiveness and respect to lovemaking. Each chapter separately stands well alone. So, if a couple was struggling in one area they could very well focus on that chapter together patching up any holes in that room.
      The content of Renovating Your Marriage Room by Room is biblical and fair. The writing takes a very neutral stance and addresses both the responsibilities of the husband and the wife. I like the fact that a couple can use one easy-to-read book to help them love one another as we are called to do. Some marriage books seem to be a bit harsh leaving a bad taste in the mouth, yet this one is easy to digest and apply. Although, I did find the analogies a tad nauseating at times. I am all for allegorical writing, but only when it is done in small doses and some pages were heavy-laden.
     Dr. Parker certainly penned Renovating Your Marriage Room by Room with wisdom and care. Even if your marriage is strong, this book would help make it stronger. Maintenance is key. Really any couple who wants to seek out godly wisdom would make a wise decision to work through this book together. If your marriage is suffering and one party is unwilling to work together, this book could still be beneficial for the willing party as long as it is read with an open heart. I do hope you find that a strong marriage is built from the ground up in Christ alone and gift yourself to one another.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Book Review: Find Your Rhythm

First, a big thank you to BookSneeze on behalf of Zondervan for the complimentary copy of God in My Everything in exchange for a review.
     In today's culture it is all too easy to find ourselves caught up in the rat race, finding we are growing weary and mindlessly going at it day after day. Author and pastor, Ken Shigematsu guides the reader to find their rule, their rhythm and allow God into everything. God in My Everything: How an Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God is a book that will really help create a vision where life becomes worship and God is found everywhere. Rather than allowing daily work dictate chaos, we can choose to be intentional and set the pace for ourselves.
     Shigematsu creates a trellis to demonstrate the various support bars and crossbeams that anchor us into God, into our ground. Sabbath, prayer and sacred reading allow us to establish roots firmly into Christ. It is from this firm foundation we build up and out allowing our vines to flourish. Relations, restoration and reaching out subsequently follow. He wisely plants a holistic approach to a healthy rule of life. When one factor is neglected slowly the trellis weakens giving way to further decay. How can we abide in Christ if our vine does not have the necessary support?
    There are plenty of books that attempt to assist readers to find balance. There are quite a few good ones. However, most do not incorporate the various facets of life as Shigematsu does. He addresses it all; there isn't a facet I can think of that this book does not cover. In each chapter many suggestions are advised and dissected to help the reader establish their own rhythm. The lovely thing is they don't all have to be used to find balance. You may realize your life is out of balance in one aspect and not another. Little by little we can cultivate a life that flourishes with and in Christ.
     I found God in My Everything to be a very relaxing read. Shigematsu's writing exudes a balance of gentleness, peace and sound doctrine. Although, each chapter stands alone, there is a cohesiveness that binds them together into a beautiful whole. As I read from day to day, I realized how some of his suggestions and overall awareness of God in my life began to seep into my life in an organic manner.
     These pages would be well-suited for anyone wanting to slow down and figure out how to lead a life that incorporates God. All too often God is reserved for Sunday mornings. God wants to walk with you through it all and be your everything.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Book Review: To Ponder and Pray

Chosen Books graciously provided a complimentary copy of Why Still Care About Israel? in exchange of an honest book review.
     Honestly, I did not know what to expect. When one brings up the Israeli-Arab conflict it is any one's guess considering the myriad of opinions and prejudices what reaction will be elicited. Author Sandra Teplinsky, an American-Israeli Messianic Jew, reassesses the situation from a very concerned manner. In her book Why Still Care About Israel?: The Sanctity of Covenant, Moral Justice and Prophetic Blessing Teplinsky evaluates the past, present and future of the Israelis, their state and what it means to the church as a whole.
     In the current state of affairs amongst the world it seems you are either for or against the State of Israel. If anyone could be simply for Israel it would be Teplinsky. Yet, she has a tender heart for all people and takes that into consideration. She calls for support of Israel, but also for Palestinians . She is not against a people, but the ugly side of humanity that comes out in the name of God. It is within the remnant of Israel that God proclaims as His choice people, or firstborn son. Therein lies a covenant with his people to bless and prosper. Yet, the land that was originally given has been significantly reduced. Prophetically, looking to the future, the state of Israel is to be restored for the coming of its rightful King. It is in the greater picture that the world should care, that Christians and Messianic Jews should care.
    Why Still Care About Israel? serves as a voice for the Israelis. One point I found sad and interesting was the discombobulated journalism that sways public opinion along anti-Christian/anti-Jewish lines. The author as a part-time resident of Israel has seen first-hand what a spin on reporting can do to the detriment of a population. How can people form educated opinions when the news is  biased? With that in mind, I applaud Teplinsky for writing a book from an unbiased perspective, as much as humanly possible.
    Teplinsky does a wonderful job observing Israel from the inside with an outsider eye. She addresses the many facets of the problems religiously, culturally and politically. Easy answers are not given, yet options are surmised and analyzed. For all the strife and pain that resonates with this topic, there is a hope, a hope to be prayed.
     If you pick up Why Still Care About Israel? you may be shaken. The very ideology you claim may be swayed. On the other hand maybe you have given this topic ample thought already. However, my guess is you will ponder this some more from a completely different angle. This will be great reading for any and every believer.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Book Review: A Plain Good Mystery

A warm thank you goes out to B&H Publishing Group for the complimentary copy of A Plain Disappearance I received in exchange for an honest review.
     Author Amanda Flower continues her Appleseed Creek Mystery series with A Plain Disappearance. Chloe Humphrey, a twenty-something young lady, moves into the heart of Ohio's Amish country to Appleseed Creek. She is a bit of a standout with bright red hair and more obviously, no Amish roots. Some of the locals have warmed up to her which is why she works as a bit of a sleuth for Appleseed's police chief. This Christmas is unlike any other when a local teenage Amish girl goes missing and is found dead in the snow laden countryside.
     Chloe, along with her former-Amish boyfriend, Timothy Troyer, set to work to help crack the case. Many suspects come out of the woodwork and are intertwined as Appleseed Creek is a town where everyone knows your name, whether you want them to or not. One such character, Billy Thorpe, turns out to be one of high interest as his harried past catches up with him. It is up to Chloe to set the record straight and dig through the Amish's tight-lipped ways. Trying to prove Billy's innocence is a task that puts many reputations on the line, including Chloe's.
      A Plain Disappearance makes for an enjoyable read, although I did find the simplistic, first-person voice a little trite. Chloe is written to be a woman of intelligence yet, her voice seemed weak at times and a bit redundant. The other aspect that was frustrating was keeping the characters straight. There seemed to be too many male characters that were so closely related, whether by familial ties or neighborly, it was hard to decipher who was who. In fact, there were three teenage characters I finally had in line by the end of the story and not a page before.
     The story line was interesting enough. I appreciated it was a modern-day plot where modernity meshes with antiquity. The paradox that unfolds between two different cultures is one I read with keen observance. I realize how easy it is to judge the ways of others when we simply are unfamiliar with varying customs. There isn't necessarily a correct way, just a different way. The other bit of moral goodness found was that just as it is inappropriate to judge customs, it is just as wrong to judge the person. Many characters in this mystery tried to hide something of themselves from the world, only to be misread as deceit. We really cannot tell what it is they are hiding and probably more importantly, why it is they are holding up a mask.
     A Plain Disappearance was a nice break from my other reading. If you are one to enjoy a mystery with many twists and turns pull up a seat and enjoy.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Book Review: Into the Deep

Master Books provided a complimentary copy of Don't Miss the Boat in exchange for an honest review.
     Don't Miss the Boat: Facts to Keep Your Faith Afloat is a great way to delve into the depths of the Flood in layman's terms. Author Paul Taylor guides the reader first into the exposition of some chapters of Genesis theologically explaining things in a comprehensive, yet understandable synopsis. Subsequently, without compromising biblical fact Taylor covers antediluvian times to the post-Flood world in a scientific, discernible manner.
      Taylor investigates the Flood with a very precise, educated mind,  but in no way lacks biblical authority. Many so-called Christians have compromised their faith in the Bible in order to succumb to the mindset of the secular, scientific world. Fortunately, many creationists have refuted evolutionary claims, while defending the biblical account of the Flood with scientific evidence. This information will help educate the believer and provide fodder for discussions with non-believers.
      My absolute favorite aspect of Don't Miss the Boat had to be the logical, concise refutation  against arguments made by evolutionists. The evidence when lined up with the biblical account simply makes more sense. Taylor made it an adamant point that fault often aligns with our presuppositions. The key for creationists is to first hold the Bible true and realize a lack of evidence for something may be just that, a lack, rather than false findings. Whereas, others may try to use missing evidence as proof. Creationist science works with the firm foundation and builds up. Evolutionists try to build their religion with their findings.
     If you are interested in building your faith or simply questioning the Flood, Don't Miss the Boat is an excellent resource. The facts are astounding and all point to an amazing Creator. This is a fairly easy-to-read book. I say that with a slight smirk, as I had to read several paragraphs over to wrap my mind around some new scientific material. Neutrons and atoms aren't my cup of tea. Yet, I am blessed to have read this book and hope you will begin this journey too.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Book Review: Another Terrific Peterson Novel

Bethany House Publishing provided a complimentary book in exchange for an honest review.
     I must say, I am a huge Tracie Peterson fan. Every single work of this author's draws me in immediately and The Miner's Lady is no exception. This novel, part of the Land of Shining Water series, is set in the late nineteenth century in a bustling Minnesota iron mining town. However, as the mining crowd can bring a rough set of people frequenting gambling saloons it is hard for women to find the marrying-type.
     The Panetta and Calarco families, Italian immigrants have been at odds with one another for years. Much to the surprise of both families, Isabella Panetta is smitten with Orlando Calarco. Their emerging love will either create a further divide or bring these feuding families to forgiveness. One heart after another seems to soften and two hearts in particular grow together. The question is can Dante Calarco let bygones be bygones and submit to his heart's longing for a Panetta girl, Chantel.
     Tracie Peterson's use of language is absolutely astonishing and vivid. As I flipped the pages I was no longer in 2013, but transported to the dusty mining town of Ely in 1890. The saloon doors could be heard swinging. The pungent smell of tobacco and whisky, mixed with dirt and grime was wafting about as one of the Panetta men pulled up a stool. The emergency signal rang out sending panic within me following Isabella down to the mine wondering if her beloved was the one in the midst of danger. Peterson has a knack to elaborate on the details creating scenes that are realistic and endearing. Rather than being an outsider looking in, I find myself walking with characters along their journey. My heart always becomes involved with those of her characters.
     The Miner's Lady also was well researched. The nuances of iron mining were mentioned that only bespeaks of intention and dedicated research. It is Peterson's ability to handle such an array of topics and time periods that enriches the reader's life. I know more about iron mining than I did before and have a greater appreciation for such back-breaking, dangerous work.
      I will say this book is predictable. Yet, it is entertaining. For me it is the historical background that really makes it a book to read. This story line is one of forgiveness and following one's heart. Peterson has certainly added another great book to her growing list of works with The Miner's Lady.