Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Lie: Evolution/ Millions of Years by Ken Ham

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The Lie: Evolution/ Millions of Years by Ken Ham, is a new revised and expanded anniversary edition of his original book published 25 years ago.  The author explains the fallacies of evolution and  dispels the myths surrounding the theory of evolution which so many readily accept as fact.  Ken Ham equates the theory of evolution to a type of religion in which its advocates accept the theory based on their biased or incomplete world view. In fact, evolution has become the dominating religion in secular society and schools alike.  The reference on the cover and within the book  to "Millions of Years" is a new insertion from the originally published book.  This  refers to the fact that there are many self proclaimed Christians and religious  who try and reconcile their faith with evolution by erroneously claiming that even though God initiated creation, it still occured through the process of natural evolution, slowly over the course of millions of years.

 In The Lie, the author explains that the debate over evolution is clear cut- and in a sense it serves as a litmus test as to whether a person is truly a believer in the gosepl of Christ.  Using Jesus' words from the New Testament in which Jesus told his listeners that they were either for or against the gospel, likewise Ham states that either one fully accepts the bible as the word of God including the 7 day creation account in Genesis, or rejects the word of God in favor of man's views which are reflected by the theory of evolution.  Considering that so many people readily accept evolution as a fact, without indepth research of other alternatives, many readers, including nominal religious readers,  will find this book difficult to read with an open mind.  As it is, many nominal church goers as well as athiests and non religious readers starting with a world view that rejects the existance of God, will most likely reject the argument presented by this book without serious consideration. Evolution is referred to as a lie in that it is a misrepresentation of the truth and a corruption presented by those whose world view denys God.

This book isn't simply a critique of evolution. In this eye-opening book, the author makes the important connection between the Genesis account of the creation and the fall, to the life saving gospel message of Jesus.  The gap in understanding will be filled in the author's presentation where he bridges the old testament account of Genesis with the Good News of Christ!  Furthermore, the author presents archological, historical and scientific facts to back up the biblical argument of a seven day creation as explained in Genesis of the bible. For example, the fossil evidence supports the idea of a world wide flood.  The common threads in various religions such as the various flood, creation and tower of babylon myths point to an original common, monotheistic belief, and a dispersion that followed.  Ancient artifacts and architechture reveal complex and advanced ancient civilizations in contrast to the sterotype of the beastial, simple minded caveman. The problem with trying to reconcile God's word with the theory of evolution is explained.   If  the world with its so called primitive organisms, dinosaurs, and caveman - existed or predated the first man and woman, then death would have been in existance before the first sin (the first act of disobbediance) occured.  Yet the bible clearly states that death was a direct consequence of the first sin.  Therefore if one claims millions of years of eveolution occured before the first man and woman, then the claim is that God created an imperfect world that included death and decay.  And if death existed before the first sin (act of disobediance) than how could God claim that death was a consequence of sin.

This is an eye opening book like no other.  The author bridges the gap left open by explaining the significance of Genesis with the fact that Jesus died for our sin, in order to offer believers eternal life.  By undermining even one part of God's word, then faith in God in general is diminished.  The consequences of belittling and whittling away at God's word is evident in today's society.  The author systematically addresses all the issues- offering a useful tool for any believer, to strengthen one's faith in addition to defending one's faith. Within the text are several cartoons, graphs and charts to illustrate the author's arguments.  This 25th anniversary edition includes special features, such as additional resources for more information, and a time-line of the author's work and research.  In the appendix additional information is provided such as additional theories of evolution which attempt to comprimise between the ideas of evolution and the bible.  This section will prove to be useful- in fact I am certain many readers themselves may find that these are the very theories or ideas that they currently accept. As a blogger I recieved this book published by Master Books, a division of New Leaf publishers, for the purpose of writing this review.

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10 Secrets to Life's Biggest Challenges by Peter Lord

10 Secrets to Life's Biggest Challenges: How You Can Prepare For A Better Tomorrow, by Peter Lord with Kent Crockett is a self help book written from the biblical perpective.  Already there are many self help books saturating the market.  In fact there are a number of biblical based self help books as well.  What speaks out to the reader to draw in his attention  is the bold title which targets what the author identifies as 10 "secrets".  The idea of a "secret" or secret knowledge is always alluring for many- religious and non religious alike.  Furthermore, the cover and its title makes no reference to Christianity and the bible, which will likely draw in the secular or non religious reader as well.  In fact, this book may be a good outreach attempt to draw in the secular reader who wishes to find help in addressing some issues. 

This book is simply written and easy for any reader to follow.  Each of the ten chapters is dedicated to a specific common challange that we all face in life.  And each chapter discusses the secrets to handling the specific challange.  For example, some of the chapters cover decisionmaking, temptations, relationships, conflict resolution, money management, and even preparing for death.  In fact, this book is like a social skills 101 course whereas the answers and help come from the bibl;e rather than from Freudian or humanist pshychology.  The author feels it is his personal mission to help others, through this book, to face life with biblical advise and knowledge.  In essense, the advise and help offered is not secret, except for the fact that the information might not be so clear to a secular reader with a wordly point of view.  Ironically, most of the chapters begin with a quote from a secular notable writer or historical figure such as Oscar Wilde, Goethe, Freud and Martin Luther.  This is an eclectic mix of quotes, but most likely included inorder to draw in a varied readership.  Discussion questions at the end of each chapter guide the reader to reflect on the chapter.  The author draws from scripture quotes heavily.  The advice is very practical and to the point.  for example, when facing temptation, the reader is urgeged to avoid tempting situations in the first place.  Scripture is used to back up the validity of the author's advise.  In fact, much of it is common sense, yet for so many people out there inj the world, whose actions are basically determined by animal like intinct and short term pleasure, this way of thinking is probabably new and novel.  Whilt this advise is wise and practical, it is amazing how many people in this life make poor choices and suffer the consequences because the have a different, non biblical based mindset.

The final chapter covers preparation for death.  Death is something everyone will have to face, one day.  Yet, it is a subject that many wish to avoid.  It is quite interesting to see how casually and with practical suggestions that the author addresses the issue of death.  For example, practical issues such as preparing a will and preparing important documents to make your death easier for your surviving family are addressed.  Legal, practical and relationship preparations are covered as well as a few paragraphs on spiritual preparation.  In a way I feel that this final chapter is misplaced as it seems contradictory to the preceding nine self help challanges.  In some cases, a reader may be drawn from this book as a result of depression and the final chapter may serve more to feed a depressed person's morbidity concerning death, rather than help.  Basically, many young readers will not be able to realate to the advice of taking legal and practical preparations for death- and this may not apply to many readers' situations.  Nevertheless, aside from the chapter on death I feel any reader will greatly benefit from this book. As a blogger I receieved this book published by Chosen, a division of the Baker Publishing Group for the purpose of writing this review.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Made In Heaven: Man's Indiscriminate Stealing of God's Amazing Design by Ray Comfort & Jeffrey Seto

Made In Heaven: Man's Indiscriminate Stealing of God's Amazing Design by Ray Comfort & Jeffrey Seto is a full color  book of popular science topics for students. The quality presentation of this book rivals that of many popular science themed books for children which are becomming more popular with today's young readers. From the cover that features a close up of the scales underneath a neon colored frog to the graphics, photos and text- this book is sure to capture the attention of any young reader interested in science. Color photographs, highlighted text and illustrated charts make this an inviting book for young school aged readers.  This is especially important in order to draw in the reader and to reach out to secular readers.  A book such as this, will certainly peak the interest of the reader to the concepts of God, creation and faith.

Each full color, two page spread of the book briefly covers a specific animal or element in nature and how it results in better and more advanced technology.  The book surveys over 30 differnt inventions and technologies and how their design was inspired by something completely natural.  For example the concept of futuristic body armor is based on the simple, yet complex fish scale.  In turn, the strength and complexity of the fish scale bears testament to the creativity and wisdom if God.  The strength and composition of a spider web has been useful in producing super strong materials.  In fact the thread of a spider's web has a stronger PSI than Titanium.  The functions of the wings of a butterfly and the color properties of its microscopic reflective scales can be applied to the technology used on paper currency to deter counterfits.  In fact, the polymer technology on the dollar bills is not even as advanced as that found naturally on the butterfly's wings! Sharp, detailed color photographs accompany the text to illustrate the complexities of the butterfly wings! This glimpse into the microscopic details of technology gives us insight into the complexities and wonder of God's creation. The authors also show that where scientists fall short or get stuck, then the solution can be found through a careful look at God's natural creations.  Even a simple object such as a flower or a wing have microscopic complexities beyond imagination.  Principles and physics formulas find their basis in God's designs.  This is not simply abook of useless trivia and facts but rather it tells a story of how science and nature are created by an intelligent creator.  So many people: teachers, scientists and professionals claim that science disporves the existance of God.  Yet, this book shows otherwise.

As a blogger I recieved this book published by Master books, a division of New Leaf Publishing Group, for the purpose of writing this review.

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The True Account of Adam & Eve by Ken Ham

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The True Account of Adam & Eve by Ken Ham and illustrated by Bill Looney, chronicles the Genesis account of the bible  starting with the 6-day creation-  in  a children's storybook format.  Yet the simple format should not decieve the reader as this book isn't simply a storybook, but a simplified theological commentary about the book of Genesis, the account of Adam and Eve and its significance for each and every one of us. It introduces children to the concept of apologetics- in which one defend's one's belief with facts.  The story is presented as a true historical account, based on the bible.  The author begins by addressing the young reader to explore the answers to common questions that every child wonders about- and it shows how the bible provides the answer.  In fact the introduction is the perfect spring board by which the account of Adam and Eve can be introduced.  In fact for parents facing the dilema of how to introduce their children to the bible and to the Genesis account, this book provides the perfect context to introduce such a discusiion.

The Genesis account is chronicled fact by fact chronologically.  This storytelling method gives weight to the authenticity of the bible.  Far too many other children's bible story books make the bible to appear no different from fairy tales and bedtime stories in the fantasy -like way the stories are normally portrayed.  Life- like art work, in contrast to simplistic cartoons, accompany each part ot the account so that young readers can visualize the events. Even scripture references are inserted.  This is not simply a re-teeling of the account but an application.  For example, the basis of marriage is discussed as well as the common points that man, as a unique creation, have in common with God, the creator.  The issue about sin and its long lasting, far reaching consequence is discussed in detail.  In most simplified accounts where it explains that Eve was tempted and ate the apple, this book actually discusses the consequences of sin from that single act of disobediance and how all mankind has inherited sin, and the effects oin society- even today.

 This book goes beyond the account of Adam and Eve, and covers other topics related to the Genesis account.  There  is a brief introduction to discussion of the problems of the theory of evolution and how fossil evidence supports the creation account.  Additionally, dinosaurs are depicted as among one of the animals created with the other animals.  The implication is that dinosaurs co-existed with man and that most likley died out in the worldwide flood. There is also a discussion of specific issues such as the population, and how a population of tday could have come about based on the inhabitants of the ark alone.  The reader is warned about the dangers of sin and the deception of Satan. In fact, the connection between Satan and how sin entered into the world is established in easy to understand language.  The good news of the gospel message is presented.  This ties in how Jesus has redeemed the world from sin, which started with Adam and Eve.  The end of the book includes biblical refences to Adam in order to illustrate the far reaching consequence of Adam's choice to sin.  Personally, I feel as if the adult reading the book will get just as much out of it as the child listening.  Although the illustrations are inviting to the younger child, I feel that older children will most likely be better able to grasp all the concepts discussed in the book. 

As a blogger I received this book published by Master Books, a division of New Leaf Publishing Group, for the purpose of writing this review. 

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The Genius of Ancient Man- general editor Don Landis

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The Genius of Ancient Man: Evolution's Nightmare is a new scientific volume by general editor Don Landis with Jackson Hole Bible College.  This full color, encyclopedia-like text covers in detail, the erroneous claims and inconsitencies of evolution in light of archeolgical, historical and scientific evidence.  This science book is comparable to the scholarship and professional research of that of any scholarly text, and I believe libraries and schools should acquire a copy of this text to enable students access to the information that so frequently is ommitted from secular and college texts. In one volume, so many pieces of the puzzle are put together- so that the reader no longer is left with disjointed conflicting bits of information.

This book serves to dispel commonly held myths with facts and evidence! Traditional secular texts leave out important archeological findings and often times, religious denominations simply ignore the issues of evolution entirely.  While the evolution as presented by most scientists and schools is a theory- not supported by the fossil evidence- many scientists, students and laymen accept it as truth.  Yet, in this single volume, the Don Landis as well as the Jackson Hole Bible College, present the holes in the theory of evolution.  Based on archeological evidence, the stereotype of the ignorant cave man is innacurate as archeological findings prove that ancient man was far advanced.  In fact, before the flood- in the pre-flood era, man had just about 1500 years to advance in the areas of technology.  Ancient cities, complex buildings and artifacts bear testament to their mathematical and scientific advancements. In fact, these findings are often the basis of legends such as the advanced underwater civilization of Atlantis.

Furthermore, the common threads in ancient mythologies and various religions do not disprove the authenticity of the bible.  In fact, these common stories of the flood, or creation or the dispersion at the tower of Babel, point to one unified origin or source- and are simply distortions of the one true story as told in the bible.  These varied religions and stories all point to the fact that all religions stemmed from the one original truith of God, which onderwent various distortions.  Further evidence points to the fact that ancient man was capable of advanced, worldwide travel and had an extensive knowledge of map making, and atronomy. Through the distortion of the truth and dispersal, and the flood much of the information was lost and had yet to be rediscovered by modern man. 

This book contains a number of full color photgraphs, charts and graphs of the various archeological pieces of evidence and the historical contexts. For example, there is an exaustive number of photographs of various monuments and pyramids from a variety of ancient cultures so that the reader can see and appreciate first hand the similarities and complexities- regardless of the varied scattered geographic locations.  Full page maps are marked inorder to further illustrate the facts. The evidence is provided in order to allow the reader to discern the truth rather than simply blindly accepting a theory.  In contrast to other non professional "in-house" attempts that are often seen by creationists or within certain religious groups, this book relies on actual, concrete evidence- which isn't simply mentioned but also pictured alongside the supportive text.  In a number of places, the reader is pointed to test the information of the book against scriptures- just as in the tradition of the new testament believers and students. As a blogger i recieved this book, published by Master Books, a division of New Leaf Publishers for the purpose of writing this review.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Yours Is the Day, Lord Yours is the Night by Jeanie & David Gushee

Yours Is the Day, Lord Yours is the Night by Jeanie & David Gushee is a compendium of prayers collected from a variety of sources from the Catholic and Protestant churches. The appropriate title is an excerpt from an anonymous prayer that is included on April 19th- for the evening.   This exhaustive compilation includes prayers from Catholic popes such as Pope John Paul II and Catholic saints such as Francis of Assisi and  therese of Lisieux as well as ancient forefathers such as Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, Aquinas and Augustine.  Also included are prayers from well known authors of literature, Mark Twain, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.  There are prayers from the first century Christians as well as modern day authors, including a few contemporary prayers from the Gushees. As I turned to October 31- out of curiosity to see the selected prayer, it was a pleasant suprise to see a Halloween themed- traditional Scottish prayer for the evening selection: "From ghoulies and ghosties and long- leggity beasties, and all things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us!".

There are two prayers selected for each of the 365 days of the year: a morning and evening prayer. Also included are seasonal themed prayers that correspond to the liturgical calendar of "Movable Holy Days" and seasons such as Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Palm Sunday, Advent, Ordinary Time and Lent.  There may be many non denomindational or independant bible students and  believers who may not understand these references- celebrated by the Catholic church and its "main stream" off shoots, as many non denominational or independantg churches simply do not recognise or celebrate some of these days.  Or perhaps they do not use the Roman Catholic terminology.  Nevertheless I do not feel that the inclusion of this calendar or its references detract from the overall purpose of this book.  Also included are traditional religious artwork, depicting scenes such as the visit of the magi,  presentation of the temple, and last supper- complete with the dainty cherubs and angels as well as the traditional religious halo or "starburst" eminationg from the heads of the main revered subject. Any believer of any denomination will appreciate this prayer book.  Ironically, I feel that despite the numerous inclusion of Catholic recognised saints and popes, the Catholics might not approve of the references of "Saint" being ommitted from some of their more popular forefathers such as St Francis, St John of the Cross, St. Aquinas and St Patrick. 

Initially, based on the appearance of this book I assumed it was just another debotional book- filled with prayers or devotions written by the Gushee couple.  But this was not the case.  This prayer book is a good resource.  It may serve as an encycopedia of prayers throughout Christianity. The prayer book is well suited for the theological student as well as an individual who appeciates prayers throughout historical periods.  This book is also perfect for personal devotions or study. The reader should keep in mind some of the old English styled translations of the more ancient prayers may be difficult for some uneducated readers to follow or understand.  Yet I feel the varied "voices" and styles make this the unique aqnd original prayer book that sets it apart from the ssaturated market of simplistic modern prayers that are so common today.  As a blogger for booksneeze I recieved this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers for the purpose of writing this review.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ella the Pink Elephant by Doris Rueger

Ella the Pink Elephant: Her Life, Love and Fame is a new illustrated children's book by Doris Rueger.  Ironically, I feel that  grandparents may find this story applicable and enjoy this book just as much as  children.  The author's message will certainly be enjoyed and applied by the old and young alike.  This story is a biography about a fictional elephant named Ella- a chronicle of her life starting with her birth and ending with her retirement.  Even though she is an animal, her life parallels that of the milestones that our often faced in our own lifetimes: birth, childhood, adulthood, career, retirement and companionship. The author also addresses the insecurities and fears we may face in times of change and transition- and captures them in a children's story.

The story depicts the growing relationship between Ella, the elephant and her own personal attendant, a former clown named Zeppo, who took on the job as her zoo keeper in anticipation of her birth.  Zeppo referred to Ella as his "princess" and made sure she was dressed in the finest and most beautiful pink dresses. Some readers might find it unusual that a grown man would develope such as strong bond to an elephant.  But this eccentric relationship is included as it often parallels relationships experienced in "human" society.   The attachment and the bond between the man  and Ella depicts her first "love" as highlighted in the title. 

She eventually became the star attraction of the zoo, hence the reference to her "Fame" in the title of the book.  Ellie finds she must make the transition from childhood to adult hood as she grows up to become what Zeppo affectionately calls a "beautiful grown up Lady Elephant". Oddly enough, she leaves the zoo and takes on a job with a wedding planner modeling clothing and appearing in fancy weddings. Her new keeper, Anna, is a fomer African missionary who has a fondness for elephants. Once again Ella  feels a new loving bond of trust developing with her new keeper and her fame in her new career continues.

As time passes, Ella grows old and decides to retire from her career.  Anna finds a zoo, where Ella is able to disgard all her clothing, accessories and makeup- to retire in peace. This is analogous to the stage in life that many must face when they retire from their careers and perhaps move into retirement villages or nursing homes.  Her self confidence diminishes as she realizes she is no longer young and beautiful, yet her fond memories of her life are sufficient for her happiness.  Zeppo, after all the years has never forgotten her and teaches her an important lesson that value and self worth do not depend on physical beauty, youth or a carrer and that love and friendship can stand the test of time.  This is an important lesson for everyone to understand- adults too.  While children may miss this lesson of the story- which I feel is especially suited to adult readers, the story itself is entertaining enough to hold a child's attention.

The original, illustrated artwork, as well as the elephant character and zoo setting will appeal to young children. The large chunks of text, and the writing style as well as the themes, communicates to adults and older children.  It is not often that you find a children's book that can teach the adult reader an important and relevant lesson. This book addresses the self esteem issues, as well as the isolation and loneliness that many older people may feel.  Nevertheless the lesson about self worth and value is universal. Personally I feel this is a very good book for parents and grandparents not only to read to children but to read for themselves. As a blogger I receieved a copy of this book for the purpose of writing this review.

Poppy and the Stranger by Eli Jay

Poppy and the Stranger by Eli Jay is a new children's book illustrated with original artwork, incorporating a common childhood themes: the fear of the dark and shadows.  The topic of shadows is not a new theme in children's books, because of the prevelance of the childhood fear of dark, shadows which often are noticible at bedtime.  Poppy, the somewhat deflated, green balloon, discovers that the "stranger" he fears following him is simply his shadow, and that it is nothing to be afraid of.

What makes this book unique is the original, eclectic mix of characters such as "Poppy", the timid and solomn, deflated, green balloon as well as the nightime typical woodland creatures: Gamble, the Fox and Ollie, the owl, the snake and bear. "Ollie" the owl,  does not happen to be stereotypical wise, old, owl commonly seen in stories.  In fact Ollie points the balloon to search for answers elsewhere.  In a twist, the fox and snake, normally depicted as sly and deceitful in countless fairy tales and stories are considered to be  the trustworthy, wise forrest creature in this story.The author, Eli Jay challlanges the common sterotype of the traditional designated roles of the owl and fox, and reverses them in this story. Instead of deceiving and eating Poppy, the snake and fox direct the balloon to the wise, brown bear, named "Lyndon", the "leader of the woods".  The bear leads Poppy to the truth about the shadow and shows him that there is nothing to fear. 

The simply drawn, yet somber, and dark, shadowy collors and harsh lines of the illustrations - reminiscent of an adolescent's artwork, give this book a gothic type of appearance. The autthor apparently illustrated his own story.  The illustrations convey opposing messages at times.  On the otherhand, the simplistic faces on the balloon and characters make the illustrations more light hearted for children.   I found the shadowy,  ill defined, somber face on the full moon in one scene, contrasted  with the smiling face on the simple small cloud next to it.  Throughout the story, the intense, and serious look on the moon is negated by the friendly faces on the tiny clouds that surround it.  The bear and the fox are depicted with evil grins, yet they are friendly and helpful nonetheless. The bear's den is actually a warm, brightly lit home- contrasting with the grim foggy darkness of the woods, and  the balloon is served cocoa by the bear. 

This is a story that I think young children will enjoy.  In fact, it might be popular if it was marketed in larger bookstores.  The theme will be universally accepted by parants and children alike.  As a blogger I recieved this book published by Outskirts Press, from the author, for the purpose of writing this review.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Unstoppable by Nick Vujicic

Nick Vujucic is not a side show curiosity, but rather a spiritual and powerful sympol of inspiration and the glory of God.  The newly published sequel "Unstoppable", by Nick Vujicic provides more moticational and inspirational messages for those readers who enjoyed his first book: "Life Without Limits".  This book includes a color excerpt of photos from his life.  Many curious people have probably viewed the popular You Tube videos online or watched a Discovery health documentary about Nick Vujicic, known as the man born without arms and legs. Yet there is much more to Nick than his severe disability. What many probably do not know about Nick, is that he is perhaps among the most inspirational motivational speakers there is. Gifted with inisght and empathy, his trials with his disability have been turned around and used as a gift to motivate and help others. He explains that he found happiness when he learned that despite his imperfections and disability, that he is perfect in God's eyes and that he is part of God's creation "designed according to His plan". 

I found this book mostly written for younger audiences- especially the discussions on relationships, self esteem and bullying.  These important issues are probably most experienced by college, high school and middle school students.  Yet I still felt readers of all ages could still relate to his words. Each of the ten chapters addresses spiritual issues that Nick has battled which can apply to each and everyone alive.  His handicap has not stopped him from doing whatever he wants- not even surfing or getting married.   He percieves himself as enabled instead of disabled, counting himself blessed admist a world where many experience all kinds of pain and suffering. His new book,  harnesses Nick's gift of empowerment to motivate the reader no matter what challanges he may face in life. He does not spend time feeling sorry for himself. Even though as a young boy he contemplated suicide, with the power of his faith in God he was able to overcome.  He does not feel sorry for himself.  Quite the contrary, he actually counts himself as blessed and emmpowered, feeling thankful for his life. In his book, Nick speaks to the reader personally, as if addressing the reader one to one: "I can't know exactly what your burden is, nor do I pretend that I've ever been through a similar crisis....You may not be able to see a bright light at the end of your own dark tunnel right now, but know that my parents could not have envisioned what a wonderful life I would have one day." He acknowledges the validity of those who suffer and does not minimize the pain others may be going through- knowing that there are those who suffer from a host of many issues: personal, physical, emotional and financial. There is no life that is insignificant, when Nick claims that God uses his impediments for God's glory and that God intentionally led him to help another familiy whose little boy was also born without arms and legs. This book is sure to give the reader an inspirational boost no matter what his or her circumstances may be. Included in this book is an insert of color photographs and a chapter of additional resources. It is ironic that a man without arms and legs, is perhaps among the most dignified, well adjusted individuals, with the God given gift of empathy and inspiration. This book is a good outreach method for all readers, disabled, young, depressed- anyone who seeks to find greater meaning and purpose.  As a blogger for Water Book publishers I recieved a copy of this book for the purposes of review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Our Daily Bread Devotional Bible NLT

Tyndale publishers newist themed bible, Our Daily Bread Devotional Bible NLT is a combination of the popular "Our Daily Bread" devotionals alongside the easy to read New Living Translation text of the bible.  This bible is a good resource for bible reading for three reasons: Firstly, it is based on the reliable, yet easy to understand NLT version of the bible.  Secondly, the 365 daily reading from the  "Our Daily Bread" devotional series is relevant and simple- and it actually re-enforces the message of the biblical text.  Thirdly, the two tone green graphics, and bold easy to read type font encourages readers to read long passages of the bible, in contrast to single isolated passages.  These three reasons make this bible a good choices not only for new bible readers but also those familiar with the bible as well.

A few points to keep in mind with this bible is that it is a devotional bible.  In contrast to a study bible, you will not find study notes, maps, glossary, concordance or articles.  For those used to the study bible format- this bible will not suit those heavy theological needs.  For those who aren't into series indepth, theological or educational bible study, this is a more appopriate choice.  This bible is a good transition for those who enjoy reading daily devotionals.  As far as the devotionals, they are written by a team of individuals- both men and women.  One thing I observed  is that the female authors of the devotionals tend to write more about their own personal yet stereotypical experiences with marriage and family.  I felt that some of their writing were not as applicable to a wider audience and would have been more appropriate in a woman's devotional bible.  While I do commend the wide mix of authors and their varied experience- to have even a segment of debotionals that depend heavily on personal anecdotes based on familial experience and child rearing will alienate many readers- especially grief stricken readers who are going through a loss. To open up a devotional with a reference to one's husband or toddler might serve to reinforce the grief of a reader who most likely is going through a sloss.  In fact "Our Daily Bread" devotionals are usually distributed at hospitals to bereved families after a loss.  Traditionally those in the greatest grief have been introduced to these simple  Personally, I felt that some of the devotionals written by the female writers would have been better placed in one of Tyndale's womens devotional themed bibles.  Other than that issue- in large part, the devotionals are short, simple and to the point- perfect for a reader to understand and apply who may be going through grief or less than ideal life circumstances.  One danger of devotional bibles in general is that the devotionals may detract from the actual text of the bible.

  I have reviewed several bibles and many seem to have one major flaw that is a deterrent from reading./  For example a good study bible with extermely small 6 or 7 point font is not readable for long passages whatsoever!  Who wants to do their daily reading with a magnifying glass.  I have seen perfectly good bibles- that are essentially usesless because the font is too tiny.  Another spoiler is the linear text format seen in some NKJV bibles.  I've seen otherwise perfect study bibles spoiled by this format. The linear text is good for finding individual, specific passages quickly, but not for comfrotable reading.  Also, a devotional bible such as the NLT Womens Sanctuary Devotional Bible, with luke- warm stereotypical women devotions, devoid of spiritual insight does not make a devotional bible worthwhile to read, despite the fancy graphics used. 

Overall I found "Our Daily Bread" to be a bible that I will actually use. This bible encourages daily bible reading- and that is among the most important aspect of a bible.  In addition, most of the devotionals are applicable to real life situations that many of the readers may be facing.  As a blogger for Tyndale publishers, I received this book for the purpose of writing this review. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Heaven Changes Everything by Todd & Sonja Burpo

Heaven Changes Everything by Todd & Sonja Burpo is based on the previously published book: Heaven is for Real, which claims to be an account of a true story.  In the account, a pastor, writes the account of his son's trip to heaven, that happened during the emergency surgery of his 4 year old son's near death experience. While alleged near death experiences are somewhat common, based on the media attention in documentaries, articles and even books, what makes this story unique is the fact that it comes from a 4 year old boy, who upon his return to his parents, reveals information that he could possibly not have known anywhere else.

This newly published book is a 40 page devotional based on the lessons and accounts of four year old Colton's experiences in heaven. The devotional format takes scripture as as well as Colton's personal experiences and applies it to everyday life. I believe that the Burpos share important scriptural lessons that apply to many-such as faith and hope. For example Sonja Burpos recognises the unspoken grief of pregnancy loss that society in general does not recognise.  Rightly so, she explains that the unborn child does go in fact- to heaven.  This is supported in scripture- as there are many references to stillbirth in Job and other palces in the bible. Nevertheless, the Burpos claim the bible is silent as to the whereabouts and destination of the unborn who are loss.  It almost seems as if the Burpos feel as if the bible is incomplete and they need to "add" or clarify its message.

 The fact is that many people suffer grief and less than ideal circumstances here on earth.  But this book brings to light the reality of heaven.  For this the Burpos must be commended.  Not too many public speakers or preachers focus on heaven in this modern society- its a message we need!

 One concern is the focus that the Burpos place on those who have died and their alleged omnipotent abilities.  For example, there is a discussion in the chapter, "No Secrets", how Todd Burpo had no secrets from his four year old son- Colton who observed him in a private moment of prayer in the hospital.  That thought really disturbed Todd- even more so than the idea that God is all knowing.  The pastor seemingly had more concern about what his child thought of his actions than what God thought.  Furthermore, no where in scripture, is any emphasis placed on what our dead loved ones think or feel about our actions.  In fact, other than the fact that we go to heaven (or elsewhere) after death, the bible is silent as to whether our loved one's are up there looking down at our actions.  We as humans simply do not have that ability to know everything- even after death.  It almost seems to be perpetuating the erroneous idea of ghosts and the belief that ancestors who have passed can in fact see what we do here on earth.  Throughout the book the authors point out to their son's experience in heaven as a guide for all people to follow.  Yet, the vision or experience is somewhat turned into a doctrine.  It almost seems as if Colton's near death experience has become the catalyst for a new religious sect that is perpetuated by the pastor of a Wesleyan Church.  Consider the movements initiated by the visions and apparitions of the Catholic Church- and how those movements gained a  popular following! I feel these books, based on Colton's books are promoting a similar experience.

Even though this story of Colton's experience in heaven is easy to read and easy to follow, it raises spiritually complex issues such as the issue of the legitimacy of private visions apart from revealed scripture. While it is true that some NDE can be ruled out as the side effects of a dying or injured brain, not all can be scientifically ruled out. Some perhaps might be supernatural in nature. Nevertheless that does not mean they should automatically be accepted as biblical in nature or truth. I must admit I am skeptical when it comes to believing modern day visions and NDE. For example, there are so many alleged apparitions of Mary in the Catholic church, that I believe most to be hoaxes, and in other cases, demonic in nature.

Convieniently, this entire miraculous story occured to a pastor's son. The reader places his faith by accepting the word of the pastor- the author of this book- that his 4 year old son did in fact go to heaven and that it is a true account and not fabricated or embellished. While the pastor does not admit to adding to his son's depictions of heaven, he interprets them in light of scripture. In of itslef there is nothing wrong with doing that. Once the reader decides to accept the author's word that this story is legit, it is up to the reader to discern the source or supernatural power behind the NDE. This is where most readers will most likely accept with blind faith that this is a true account and that it is based on biblical truth. This is because most people want to believe this heartwarming and comforting message is true.

Any responsible reader familiar with the bible will be aware that he or she is faced with the task of determining if the experience of Colton is spiritually based on truth, or if it perhaps is an indirect attempt of Satan to mislead believers into accepting false information. Paul warned in the letters of the new testement, especially in the book of Galations, that even Satan, and evil spirits can appear as angels of light, deceiving many. So, if this is true, then is it possible that a Pastor might be decieved and misinterpret his son's experience as being from God when it possibly isn't? That possibility must be acknowledged by anyone who reads this book. While Paul acknowledged the possibility of personal visions in the ancient church, he himself did not place on any believer the burden of accepting any other private vision other than the message containe din the gospel. When Colton urgently claimed that all must know Jesus to enter Heaven, that is accurate- and perhaps the most significant piece of information that could possibly validate the experience as being in line with scripture. As far as the other details- knowledge of his grandfather and unborn sister- that information could be obtained from evil sources for the purpose of adding "authenticity" and misleading believers into believeing the other aspects of the visions Colton shared. The evil spirits are known for mixing truth with falsehood. We are in a spiritual battle, and nothing is off limits as far as the evil spirits of this world are concerned. they will try all sorts oftricky and decieving deceptions. They will try any underhanded tactic even going so far as using an innocent boy and his Pastor Dad, as tools to mislead others. It isn't always obvious to everyone to sort truth from untruth unless they are firmly grounded in the Holy Spirit. Even those involved in the occult such as palm readers and fortune tellers, can sometimes fortell the future or the past with amazing accuracy with supernatural information supplied by the evil spirit realm. The details of the throne of God, the angels and other aspects are questionable, as to their spiritual authenticity.

As a blogger for booksneeze I received this book from Thomas Nelson publishers for the purpose of writing this review. It is with caution I would suggest this book to anyone to read. unless of course that reader is willing to take the time to discern, in light of scripture, the validity of the message presented by this little boy's experience and his dad who authored the book.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Gospel of Yes by Mike Glenn

The title of new book, The Gospel of Yes by Mike Glenn, almost sounds like an overused cliche.  Nevertheless this book brings to like an obvious but often overlooked point: that God wants us live an abundant life, and that God invites us into an eternal relationship- and all the goodness and fruits that go with a relationship with God.  The subtitle: We Have Missed the Most Important Thing About God.  Finding It Changes Everything. - serves to draw in the interest of the reader.  Using a number of personal anecdotes taken from his own life, the author has written this book for either the new believer or secular reader.  This is an outreach attempt to bring in those readers who ordinarily percieve God as a distant and uninvolved entity. This book serves to refute the emphasis of traditional religious teachings about the ideas of merit, works, suffering and other similar doctrines. Yet at times, I believe that the author is a bbit too permissive in excusing sin, when he concludes that "some people wrongly concludetheir lives are over, and they give in to a self destructive lifestyle."  Essentially he seems to exonerate those in a lifestyle of sin as simply feeling discourages and defeated rather than actually accepting God's grace.  Yes, that is true in part, but nothing negates our personal responsability.  Ignorance is not an excuse whatsoever for a lifestyle that in in direct opposition to God.  I believe that it is important that the author does denounce the prevelant problem of guilt and self hatred.  In today's modern society this is the message that people need to hear- that we do not need to live under the shackles of gult.  Nevertheless, often as mentioned in the bible, guilt does in fact lead to repentance and change- so at times guilt is very important to motivate us to reach for God's will. 

In the end, I think many readers: secular and new believers alike, will appreciate this message.  Those readers so caught up in false, traditioonal religions may also appreciate the freedom of this message.  Yes, God is on our side and does not want us to fail.  But then again, as the bible tells us, God sometimes disciplines those he loves as a parent corrects a child.  Suffering does not mean God has reected us and it may be for God's greater glory.  Hopefully the reader will not confude this message as validating the "prosperity gospel" movement. 

AQs a blogger for WaterBrook I recieved this book from the publisher for the purpose of writing this review.  My opinions expressed are my own.