Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Provision Promises by Joseph Prince

Joseph Prince's new book Provision Promises is a handy guide whose theme is based on scriptural promises for God in meeting our needs. Prince writes for the modern day reader in mind; simply and with humor.  Prince has complied just about every biblical reference related to God's promises to  to provide for our needs both spiritually and physically.  In Prince's own words on page 49, God "is the Possessor of heaven and earth.  He is not El Cheapo.  He is El Shaddai- the Almighty...".  He continues on to state that in Christ, God's abundance is all we need "for a successful family, career and ministry".  In other words, God desires us to have the abundant life where He desires for all believers to prosper materially, and financially as well as spiritually. 

Prince communicates effectively through short easy to understand passages, in a personal and  informal tone.  Simple but powerful passages or excerpts- similar to short daily devotionals are side by side with biblical verses.  He speaks out to the tired frustrated reader, and empowers those who have lost jobs or burdened with financial needs and wants. He speaks to the tired, weary, distraught reader who may not even have the energy to read through a full length book or bible.   In this easy to digest pocket sized book, the focus is God's word: scripture.  Prince lets the hand picked bible verses speak for themselves with simple clarification and real life anecdotes of changes lives- people who have started new careers, found jobs and made wealth.  He even gives practical advice about debt, credit and borrowing.  He offers hope for those who have little means by integrating biblical illustrations of how Jesus did much with very little such as in the feeding of 5000 with a little boy's lunch.  One suggestion for the reader is to read the biblical context of the bible passages and verses such as the case with Deuteronomy 28.  Short excerpts do not always give the greater picture of the bible's complete message.

Many might object to what they see as a prosperity type of gospel being preached.  Regardless of any objection, there is an abundance of biblical verses that promote the idea that God does desire to provide for His children.  Furthermore, Prince offers a quasi- theological basis in defense of the gospel of abundance when he states that Jesus "took your place of poverty at the cross , just so that you can take His place of abundance.  A divine exchange occurred at Calvary- your sin for his righteousness and your poverty for His provision".  page 55  This unique explanation bridges the gap between the sacrifice of Jesus and how it relates to physical needs and abundance.  There is a wealth of scripture to back up the belief that God desires to provide for his children such as Matt7:9-11.  Prince effectively mines the relevant verses, and rather than hide these bits of wisdom  in long winded passages of commentary or story telling- each scripture is highlighted for easy accessibility and reference.  This book is perfectly suited for those readers who find themselves in dire need: the unemployed, the displaced, the homeless, the rejected, the hungry and the neglected.  Even the pocket sized appearance of this book make it an easy resource to carry in a purse, pocket or car. And for those readers who have not been born again, and who have not yet been saved, Prince shares the basic gospel message- which is reiterated in the form of a prayer in the back of the book. 

One thing to consider when reading Charismatic Christian works is the belief in literal, modern day spiritual gifts such as healing- as evidenced with the inclusion of  an "Annointing Oil Prayer" in the prayer section in the end of the book.  Some Christians may be just asgrounded in their faith yet believe that "spiritual" signs like healing, tongues and other  miracles ended in the ancient days of the church. But  the power and effectiveness of prayer and God's living word in the bible is not simply a theatrical exploit limited to charismatics, but rather a fact that all believers need to meditate on. It is regrettable that many mainstream churches reject the real power of God's word   due to a perceived negative association with charismatic churches.  I've stated this before in reaction to other charismatic writings, but it can never be emphasized enough. This is an empowering book that is certain to encourage even the most apathetic and discouraged readers to act. It is a book to read, and re-read.   As a blogger for the Booketeria I received this book published by Charisma House for the purpose of writing this review.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Children's Atlas of God's World by Craig Froman


Children's Atlas of God's World by Craig Froman is a large sized, full color book that will appeal to children of all ages. Not only is this volume educational, it is entertaining as well. This book is complete with photographs, illustrations and maps. This atlas is like a geography sampler for children in which a selected number of countries from every continent is covered in exhaustive detail. Rather than overwhelm the young reader with  encyclopedia reference like coverage full of meaningless data, for every single country in the world, this book focuses on a range of three to seven countries per continent in greater focus.  The countries selected are well known countries that represent the continent as a whole.  For example in South America, the countries of Brazil and Bolivia are represented in this book.  Africa includes Kenya, Egypt and South Africa.  There is even a section on Antarctica as well as an explanation describing this unique entity populated mostly by researchers at seasonal times of the year.  The table of contents gives the reader and educator a quick visual glance at all the countries covered in this book.  Each country included in this book has relevant information including basic facts, maps, brief histories and timelines, social customs, landmarks and wildlife in order to teach  the reader the geography and social aspects of everyday life.  This book combines the best of science and geography to give the reader a broad experience in learning about the world.

This book can be used as a text in a geography or social studies course considering the amount of relevant indepth material that is provided. Information about biomes, latitude and longitude and world goverments is just a sample of what is covered in this book.  This book will give the student a broad picture of the world and not simply an introduction to isolated nations and countries.  If this book is used as a text as part of a social studies curriculum, the student will get a complete picture of the world as a whole.  For other students, this would make a perfect resource for an elementary school research paper.

As the title indicates, this book is written with the assumption that God is the creator and author of the universe.  Nevertheless this book can be enjoyed by the secular, non religious student as well as the homeschooled Christian student and their families.  The professional and inviting layout of this book can rival the quality of any secular textbook. The fact that this atlas makes reference to God, our creator, communicates to the young reader that God is the creator of all- and should not simply be limited to Sunday school once a week.  Secular education leaves God out of the picture entirely, leaving many secular students with a compartmentalized view of faith and the bible.  This book shows how God is part of all aspects of life.  This book is not only a reference book to return to again and again but can be read for the sole purpose of learning.  As a blogger for New Leaf Publishers I received this book published by Master Books, part of the New Leaf Publishing Group. 

Billy Graham in Quotes

Billy Graham in Quotes - compiled by  Franklin Graham with Donna Lee Toney is the ultimate resource for any speech writer, pastor or Billy Graham fan.  This exhaustive compendium has the best of Billy Graham's quotes taken from speeches, writings, interviews and other public appearances.  The quotes are groups based on topic ranging from controversial issues such as abortion, choice, creation and children to spiritual topics such as the bible, death and God's will. An inspiration for writing this book according to Franklin Graham is that Billy Graham himself has stated his concerns about the countless times he has been misquoted by the media.  This book is the definitive resource to set the record straight. It is almost a defense or insurance policy against all the misinformation that might be circulating in newspapers and TV talk shows.

 This all in one book can be read cover to cover or independent quotes can be searched based on topic.  Reading this book cover to cover is like any resource book on quotes- except for one major distinction: this book focuses on Graham's quotes.  His short quotes are easy to read and assimilate.  In contrast to reading a full length book or daily devotional type of book, the reader can get quick inspiration in simply a mater of seconds.  This book requires no commitment to read as it can be read in any order, one quote at a time.  The quotes are notable enough that they speak for themselves.  In light of Billy Graham's advancing age, it s no surprise that his son Franklin Graham has created this compendium of his fathers wisdom which spans the course of many decades.  Obviously not every evangelist- author is worthy of his own compendium but after spending a lifetime preaching, teaching and writing, his works and appearances have inspired countless believers.  It is only natural that his expansive writings, sayings and speeches be categorized for simple and quick access.  Once minor concern his that faithful readers or any reader for that matter will find this book easier to turn to for their spiritual needs than the bible itself.  This book is not a replacement for bible reading yet some might see it like a condensed catechism on what the bible has to say about certain topics. As a blogger I received this book published by Thomas Nelson for the purpose of writing this review.. 

If You Were Me and Lived In... South Korea... A Child's Introduction to Cultures Around The World By Carole P. Roman

If You Were Me and Lived In... South Korea... A Child's Introduction to Cultures Around The World By Carole P. Roman is a new picture book introducing young readers to a new country. This book is the newest edition in a series of picture books focusing on a particular country.  It would also be a good book for a family that is interested in their ancestry or appropriate for grade school children as part of a geography or social studies lesson.

This book follows a similar format as the first books in the series about Mexico and France. This consistency makes this series perfect for the school setting.  The predictability of the book's format will appeal to younger readers.  In this addition to the series, the  reader will learn about the geographical location of South Korea and will be  introduced to historic buildings, coinage, tourist attractions, local foods, national holidays, sports and other social norms. Full color, simply drawn cartoon drawings compliment the text. Yet this book is also educational as it may be the only glimpse readers will ever have of South Korea (Republic of Korea - not to be confused with North Korea which is known as the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea DPRK!)  It might be good for the author to include the political and geographical distinction between North and South Korea- which probably will be a question that is raised after older children read this book.  It is interesting to see the author's stylized depiction of South Korean writing in the market and the park. The foods and dining serve to reinforce American notions of Asian cuisine.  as well as the stereotypical ideas of ethnicities in the context of their actual settings. Apparently a special hallmark of this series is the inclusion of a unique and unexpected pattern which is integrated into the scenes.  On the page about the school the author should have included a brief explanation of the high tech yellow school vehicle which does not resemble a school bus. In this newest edition to the series the author makes more use of the mixed media textures in the illustrations.  After reading this book, I believe the reader may have even more questions about South Korean culture.  The pronunciations at the end of the book introduces the child to the native language but it would be better to have the equivalent English words listed as well.  The last page includes pronunciations of some of the words used in the book.  As a blogger I received this book for the purpose of writing this review. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Jamil Clayton's Poems of a Fatherless World

Jamil Clayton's complex new book, Poems of a Fatherless World, is an eclectic compendium of spiritual and socio-political poetry, short stories and essays.  This diverse literary mix is not reflected by the book's title.  Nor is it adequately described by the subscript that describes this work as a "novel".  A  more accurate title would be to call it simply "The Collected Works of Jamil Clayton".  This is certainly not a piece of passive work and Clayton's writings are  certain to elicit a strong reaction from any reader.  This  everything but the kitchen sink-esque type of book contains a bit of every literary genre: poetry, fiction, opinion, religion and socio-political history.

It  is accurate to say that Jamil's writing is honest, explicit and reflects his spirituality, faith as well as his political outlook on life.   In some instances, the nature of his writing may stir up some controversy on many levels- spiritually, morally and politically.  The raw, explicit, writing style depicted in this book is certainly not appropriate for mixed audiences as he describes in one of the stories, the depraved exploits of  the hero of the story as he was overcome "with the plague of the lustful fornication spirit.... like bacteria that had multiplied" (page 26).  In an attempt to consider the author's motivation, I can surmise as to why the author chose to include the material in  his work: a mixture of remorse, as well as a need to openly confess to the reader. Is the author bold and courageous? Or is the inclusion of these scenes in a book on spirituality in poor taste? I am sure readers will have their own mixed reactions.  Perhaps the author felt the contrast of the vivid sexual imagery made God's grace seem all the more potent.  Many readers will strongly feel that there is no appropriate time to use explicit material in any work.  To the author's credit each explicit sexual scene was followed a disclaimer-  by the character's recognition of the willful sin and remorse and a spiritual explanation  denouncing the depraved acts.  "Afterword, I covered my face in shame, for I knew the act I committed was detestable.  We soaked in our sinful filth as we slept through the night". (page 26)  At times the writing and its themes seemed more suitable in a confessional,  diary or a private journal kept under lock and key and hidden under a mattress.  Though some individual readers who are in a battle with sexual sin and addiction might find it inspiring, these same individuals might also find themselves tempted back into the sin they are fighting to abandon.  This might be a good outreach attempt to draw in readers with similar life experiences closer to the message of the bible.  Other sensitive or religious readers feel tainted after reading explicit material and find themselves offended or alienated altogether, and simply put the book down after the first short story. 

Although the book implies the short stories are purely fictitious, I feel the emotions, feelings and the situations are probably autobiographical in nature. The fiction is written with authenticity.   Furthermore in addition to short stories and poetry, there are a number of passages or writings in the book that would be best described as political commentaries on social justice, historical essays and theological essays as well.  Jamil has a lot to say about what he feels are the injustices and inequalities about modern American capitalism.  He is very opinionated about greed- and rightfully so!  The poetic piece "Domonic Surrogates" reflects powerful imagery that speaks of social injustice and crimes from the African American or "American African" point of view.  Yet his quasi- socialist ideas about redistribution most likely will be met with resistance by many conservative and mainstream readers. He has a lot to say about the historic oppression of minorities and more specifically, African Americans.  His opinions are sprinkled throughout the book on every page as they are voiced through the vivid imagery in  his poetry, stories or explicitly stated in his editorials and articles. This work is like multiple, independent works all rolled into one. The common thread in these diverse compiled writings is that the author writes them motivated by his personal faith in God. His love of the bible and biblical history and also African American history is obvious. On occasion he merges the two subjects as they relate to social issues. The book even features an article on the ancient history of the bible including information on the dead sea scrolls to educate the reader as well as help the reader defend his faith.

The unique, theatrical and dramatic cover portrays two photo-shopped barefooted images of author with gleaming red demon like eyes, wearing an ancient styled robe, with a menacing snarl: outstretched in defiance and  crouched down in the midst of glowing, translucent blue flames.  The background appears to be a dimply lit, desolate cave with the golden ark of the covenant as well as a glowing mosque and lightening storm in the distant background. One should not judge a book by its cover- but the  cover is so unlike any cover ever depicted on a book that its worth mentioning.  Perhaps the author is portraying Satan- on the prowl-who is ruler of this fallen world. The ark, hidden in the dark cave, represents the truth that Satan attempts to hide and obscure. I can only imagine the author trying to contain his excitement as he orchestrated the idea for this very unusual one of a kind cover.

  Regardless of opinions that readers may have, Clayton is to be commended for his fearlessness in his honesty in  presenting to the readers the full gambit of  his emotions and innermost thoughts.  The reader will put this book down feeling as if he knows Jamil's on an intimately spiritual level.  Nothing is kept hidden as this book reveals even the deepest recesses of Jamil's mind.  I don't think I have read any other work in which the author has opened himself up with such vulnerability.  In the end the book's purpose is summed up on the final page as he speaks directly to the reader: "Don't be a fool. Move! The bible is an awesome book that is timeless, representing a timeless God for a world that's running out of time.  Read it, learn it, meditate on its scriptures, and work toward spiritual growth". (page 418)  As a blogger I received a copy of this book from the author, published by Outskirts press for the purpose of writing this review.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

New Spirit Filled Life Bible NLT

The newest edition of the New Spirit Filled Life Bible- Kingdom Equipping Through the Power of the Word- Jack W. Hayford is now available in the easy to read New Living Translation (NLT).  Joined together in this bible is both the popular Spirit Filled bible which was previously available in the KJV or NKJV and the more modern easy to read NLT.  Thomas Nelson publishers has many themed bibles, but most of them are available only in the New King James  (NJK) translation.  Therefore making this bible available in NLT makes the bible more accessible to so many more readers who find the KJV or NKJ too antiquated. 

This themed bible places emphasis on spiritual gifts and is consistent charismatic Christian tradition which places emphasis on modern day spiritual gifts such as tongues.  This issue of spiritual gifts is divisive enough to cause distinct denominations within the Christian church.  Nevertheless, the ideas of spiritual gifts is not a major doctrine and therefore not an issue of theology that is fundamental to faith.  The idea behind charismatic believers is that the gift of tongues and other physical miracles from the ancient church and apostles is still available today to all believers.  And then there are bible believers who are just as solid in their faith who believe that these spiritual signs are no longer available having served their purpose in the early church and Jesus' lifetime and that Jesus is the only testimony we need.  Furthermore, charismatic churches believe in a second "installment" or "infusion" of the Holy Spirit distinct from what the believer receives when he is born again.  These concepts are very well explained in the articles and reference materials in the back of this bible.  Basically anything you wanted to know about the history and biblical roots of the charismatic movement is here in this bible! This bible is like Charismatics 101- an introductory course as well as more advanced indepth material as well.

Within the bible text there are sidebars of information clearly designated from the bible text.  The reader will find concepts such as "Word Wealth" and "Kingdom Dynamic" which provides more information and expands on biblical concepts, theology and terminology.  The end of the bible books include "Truth in Action" charts as well. All these helps draw the reader into a deeper understanding of the bible and its message.  Word Wealth is basically like a dictionary, defining a specific word or concept.  The only issue is that it references the "Strong's" text which many reader might be unfamiliar with.  There are also maps and charts throughout.  The subtle insertion of color breaks up the monotony of the columns and sets apart the biblical helps.  Yet along with the two column format, the extensive notes on the bottom and the references in the center column, the bible text looks a bit too broken up and choppy.  This is not a problem for those who appreciate the wealth of study helps available in this single bible volume. One other issue is that the pages are super thin and delicate.  In fact, on a humid day, the pages curled up like waves just like my own hair on a humid day!  I imagine this technical production issue can not be helped as many study bibles have thin pages.  The irony of this situation is that the heavier use a bible is likely to get because it is a study bible, the thinner the pages tend to be! Yet to keep the size of the bible manageable, and rom weighing as much as a watermelon, this "onion skin" or tissue type of paper is the best option in the manufacturing process. 

 It is ironic to see these scholarly helps and notes available in a modern day version such as the NLT.  I believe this lends academic and scholarly credibility to the easy NLT version which frequently is dismissed by elitists or traditionalists who feel that nothing less than the KJV or NKJV is adequate. The NLT happens to be my newly found favorite translation especially for its clarity in the old testament and the letters.  As a blogger for bookszeeze I received this bible published by Thomas Nelson publishers for the purpose of writing this review.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Satan You Can't Have My Promises by Iris Delgado

Satan You Can't Have My Promises: The Spiritual Warfare Guide to Reclaim What's Yours by Iris Delgado teaches the believer about effective, "radical" prayer "with tenacity and fervency" in order to claim the promises God has in store for all Christians.  As Delgado states right from the start on page one, "If I took the name Satan and all the scriptures out of this book and made it more generic... I would get a much broader audience to read this book." This statement is basically a response to the countless sterile, ineffective Christian books written on the subject of prayer on the market today.

This small scale, pocket sized book seems  deceptively brief and simple.  Yet in it contains literal power- that is,if you believe the bible is true and have faith in the power of God's word.  The author did all the hard footwork, mining all the scriptural references to God's promises for us about the power of prayer and prayers themselves.  Rather than a wordy, theological discussion on prayer, or an apologetic work in defense of the power and purpose of prayer, Delgado simply lists the scripture passages and verses that speak for themselves.  We do not have to take her word on it- she provides the actual scriptures, and presents them to the reader to illustrate how prayer can overcome any tragic circumstance, poverty, generational curses, addictions, illness and hurdles.  On the surface, some fundamentalist readers might dismiss this work as "prosperity" preaching- which in essence is a false gospel of materialism without any heed to sin and personal responsibility.  But the author offers a convincing argument that prayer is effective and it is not limited in any way.  The words of prayer are powerful and empower the reader to change his or her life circumstances. 

I found this book is more than just a manual on effective prayer, and more than an exhaustive  reference book of God's promises, but a resource to return to each day. After I read it the first time, I thought it worthwhile to read a second time- to absorb and meditate on the countless promises God has in store for us- not just for eternity in heaven but on earth right now.  There is so much material in this book- a treasure of biblical promises and prayers specific enough for every need for the reader in easy reach for every hardship imaginable- illness, poverty, addiction, fear, loneliness and grief.  Even if one does not believe in literal modern day miracles, this book shows the supernatural power of prayer- and that is not a doctrine that conflicts with any believer.  The power of prayer is biblical, but it is something may Christians simply overlook or never think about. This book is very straightforward and mysterious sounding concepts such as generational curses and the power of the blood and the idea of binding Satan are explained in light of the scriptural context. 

One thing to consider when reading this book-  common with Charismatic Christian writers such as Delgado, are anecdotes about literal, actual possession.  Coincidently, these authors always seem to come face to face with victims possessed by demons. Such accounts may seem a bit theatrical for some readers, but they reflect the author's belief in literal, modern day possession - a belief that not all biblical churches or believers share.   Some Christians may be just as adamant, just as grounded in their faith yet believe that "spiritual" signs like possession and other supernaturally classified miracles ended in the ancient days of the early church. Nevertheless, other than the brief reference to the demonic episode at a seminar, there weren't too many possession stories in this book. And the power and effectiveness of prayer is not simply a theatrical exploit limited to charismatics, but rather a fact that all believers need to meditate on. It is regrettable that many mainstream churches reject the real power to prayer due to a perceived negative association with charismatic churches. The author speaks from personal experiences on how prayer can overcome deeply rooted generational curses, and impossible situations.  For the author, as a survivor of childhood abuse the promises of God were sufficient in turning her life around.  There is a reason dies for us- for our sins.  And the power of Jesus' sacrifice still stands today for all believers to grasp.  Satan is a real being- that threatens every believer in ways that may even be overlooked.  This book gives the tools to fight back.  This is a very empowering book that is certain to encourage even the most apathetic of readers to act.

 As a blogger for the Booketeria I received this book published by Charisma House for the purpose of writing this review.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Diva Pearl the Pekingese by Miss Pearl and Vicki Gattuso

Diva Pearl the Pekingese: Life After Showbiz by Miss Pearl and Vicki Gattuso is a new picture book chronicling the life of a pampered per- a show dog named Pearl.  This canine memoir covers everything about Pearl's life, starting with her ancestry, her career, motherhood, retirement and even her brush with death. This unique  autobiographical account is written from the first person point of view of a dog.

This brightly designed book will  appeal to those  readers  who have pure bred show dogs themselves and are familiar with the life of a dog show.  I can imagine a grandmother sharing her love of pure breeds and dog shows as she gives this book to a young grand daughter.  For those readers unfamiliar with pure breed dogs and shows, this book is  educational. The cool scientific facts throughout the book will certainly capture the attention of children. There is a lot of information about the Pekingese breed as well as its ancient origins. So many facts will jump out at the reader- young and old alike.  It is interesting to note that this man made breed of dog can not be born without medical assistance of a c-section due to the shape of their skulls.  It raises issues about the efficacy of man's interventions in breeding animals. This pampered animal lives in the seat of luxury, enjoying pampering that I am sure not too many humans can afford! Pearl  has her own pink stroller, boudoir, hairdresser and caretaker.   This book is filled with full color graphics and photographs of Pearl- some of these photos are from professional photo shoots and many are candid shots.  While the quality of photos reproduced well, I believe some of the candid shots could have been omitted as it can detract from the professional look of the book. For  example the spread on page 8 looks a bit cluttered almost like a personal  photo album. The photograph of the airport signage on page 12 also gives the book a scrapbook type of touch- which possibly may have been the author's intent. 

  At times the text is too lengthy and might not hold the younger reader's attention. In some areas, too much information is provided for the young audience. When Pearl explains on page 52, "I almost died because my blood didn't clot right, and the vet thought that I died for a moment...I decided to come back"- . I am certain this may initiate some questions about life, death and maybe even spirituality.  Some of the  euphemisms may not be easily understood and would have been better if left out entirely.  For example on page 48, under the section "Motherhood", the reader is told that "Puppies are usually in the oven for about six weeks."  Appropriate terminology would have been more suitable in this case.  Or this fact could have been omitted entirely without detracting from the story. The phrases: "unique way of playing" or "wrestling with Shoko" might be misunderstood or misinterpreted -especially in light of the fact that it is followed by the section on "Motherhood".   A parent or grandparent can not simply read this book casually to a child without being prepared to address some intense questions about life, death, birth and reproduction that this book is certain to raise.

This book is sure to hold the attention of any reader of any age.  This candid autobiographical accounts covers everything in Pearl's rich life. Her life is literally an open book, which ultimately delivers a message about the complexity and intrigue of the life of a showdog.  As a blogger I received this book for the purpose of writing this review. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Christianity Lite by Glen Berteau

Christianity Lite: More Me, Less God- Stop Drinking a Watered Down Gospel by Glen Berteau delivers a message that all churches and Christians need to hear more often.  Dispelling the myth of feel good Christianity and prosperity teaching,  Berteau discusses unpopular topics such as sin and personal responsibility.  With a photo-shopped image of a beverage bottle, dripping with cool refreshing condensation, the cover of this book is certain to to lure in any reader. Yet the tempting bottle, reflects a diluted, tainted, lukewarm, counterfeit Christianity- which only appears to be refreshing, but in reality leads to spiritual death. 

There is a problem with many modern churches and Christians- a counterfeit gospel is being preached, taught and embraced.  In the days of the early church Paul warned about a false gospel and a false Christ- and how willingly Christians are deceived into accepting whatever sounds good and easy at the time.  Apparently in the modern day, not much has changed as countless self professed Christians and mega churches preach a gospel of material prosperity, leaving out the concept of sin, humility and sacrifice.  Essentially, the author compares this to a lite beer, in which much of the substance essential is removed.  "Christianity Lite" is in essence a religion in of itself.  And not only that, it has many followers.  This real hallmarks of Jesus is summed up by the author's words in the first chapter: "Jesus didn't come to make us happy.  He came to humiliate our flesh.... He offends our pride.  He offends our habits and our lifestyle.  He offends our emotions and our minds.  He confronts our selfishness, arrogance, and self-pity... He's not satisfied with half- baked commitment and lukewarm zeal." page 14 This book is heavily based on scripture.  In fact there is a lot of scripture within the text itself.  In contrast to many writers who deliver a message based on personal anecdotes which are frequently not applicable to the reader, Berteau depends heavily on the use of scripture- God's own words. Yet his modern day analogies are powerful.  For example, he explains that today, Jesus is simply like a Xanax to make people feel good about their lives. Nevertheless the biblical message speaks for itself.   He offers very little interpretation beyond the scriptural message- exposing truth with relevant scripture.  His writing is easy to read yet professional, and thankfully free from opinions and biases- which are found all too often in books on Christian living.  Many Christian books simply touch the surface of the gospel message, focusing on feel good messages and prosperity preaching.  In this book the heroes are those who gave their lives for Christ such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer who had the courage and gave his life taking a stand against Hitler. This book delivers a more complete message that so many other writers leave out in fear of offending their readers. The author did his research and has gleaned out just about every verse in scripture, relevant passages, parables and accounts referencing false teaching, counter-fit Christs and lukewarm faith.  Glenn also has a good grasp of human psychology in explaining why people are so willing to accept a false watered down gospel message.   Not only that, but he covers the consequences of false Christianity.  Only one element would make this book even better at reaching its broad audience- a chart.  Relevant questions for the reader at the end of the chapter give the reader another opportunity to reflect on the material. The implementation of a visual chart with bullet points contrasting Christianity Lite with true, authentic,  biblical Christianity would be more effective in summing up the material for  today's reader. Such a chart or graph would be perfect if placed in the appendix in the back of the book to reinforce the important message.  Perhaps this can be considered in a future edition of this book.

Modern counterfeit Christianity a.k.a. Christianity Lite is set side by side and contrasted with the true Christianity of the bible.  Only by exposing its deficits in light of scriptural truth, can the reader be confronted with the likelihood that he too has fallen for and accepted Christianity Lite as well. This is a book that one can return to and re-read.  Although its simple to understand, the message delivered is one that is consistent with biblical teaching; a message that all Christians should mediate on.  This book goes beyond religious denominations, age or socio-economic status.  It is a book that all Christians and churches need to hear. This message is empowering in that it sheds light on biblical truth- urging the reader to have the confidence to truly follow Christ.   Hopefully those readers not following the true gospel, who themselves are deceived by watered down Christianity will find themselves convicted and led to the truth. "if you've been drinking Christianity Lite, spit it out!" page 30  The only issue I found is that the author compartmentalizes the gospel to reflect a Charismatic  theology, or  "spiritual gift"  point of view.  For example, the author  states that only having either the word alone or the Spirit alone isn't enough- one must have both or you will "dry" up or "blow" up.  To divide this aspect of faith or fruit of faith into two distinct and separate components, doesn't make biblical sense. For example if one truly has the Holy Spirit, then they do so because they are saved and have the word.  If what a believer possessed  was not sufficient then that person would not have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Also, some readers-  might not appreciate  the author's personal anecdote-  his literal "first encounter with demonic forces" of an actual possession of a young boy- by a demon at a retreat. Such a story reflects the author's belief in literal, modern day possession stories- a belief that not all biblical churches or believers share  This doctrine is not a major Christian doctrine, but it is divisive enough in that some new smaller denominations have been created in response to the issue.  Some Christians may be just as adamant, just as grounded in their faith yet believe that "spiritual" signs like possession and other supernaturally classified miracles ended in the ancient days of the early church.

The author dedicates a chapter  to an essential aspect of "authentic" Christianity that "Christianity Lite" neglects such as power, prayer, cost (sacrifice), offence, service and sharing.  Finally, Berteau illustrates the effects of authentic Christianity on the Christian in that it has the power to change the world even through a single authentic believer. 

As a blogger for the Booketeria I received this book published by Passio for the purpose of writing this review.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Revealing Jesus- A 365 Day Devotional by Darlene Zschech

Revealing Jesus- A 365 Day Devotional by Darlene Zschech, a beautifully designed hardcover book looks like a piece of art. A high relief embossed like cover on a green, aged like foil background makes this book visually appealing. The antique like graphics and use of bold color in the interior makes this devotional book inviting to read.  It makes the reader want to read this book.  In contrast to the numbers of Christian devotional books, the visual presentation is sure to set this volume apart from the rest of the devotional genre.

Yet the content is what constitutes makes a book, not simply its cover. This devotional is pretty standard in that it is divided by the calendar year- 12 months and one devotional per day.  Each devotional is quick- a few short paragraphs based on the theme.  A selected verse is highlighted and the daily devotional text is beneath- which is also the common format in most yearly devotional books as well.  The devotional styles are varied in that one day, there might be the text of a well known hymn/ psalm and the next a quick spiritual tidbit. The devotionals are spiritually refreshing and very simple.  There is no heavy theology like you would find with Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis or Billy Grahm. This is good in that the information is easily digested no matter where the reader may be in his or her walk with God- just beginning or advanced.  Simple daily topics such as leadership, gracious giving, worship, temptation, financial debt, false gospels and spiritual gifts are just a sampling of what is covered.  Pretty much after 365 days, a lot of material is covered- and every reader will find at least some of the material directly applicable.  Zschech writes with the busy, time pressed reader in mind- a reader whose busy schedule might not allow for a lot of time to read. She speaks directly to the reader.  In contrast to many female writers, Darlene's devotional will have a broad appeal for men and woman alike.  I can not find any segment of the population that might find themselves alienated, excluded or offended.  This book is general enough to appeal to all readers, and thankfully, the author does not rely on her own personal anecdotes as a springboard to begin each day.  Often, especially with women writers, their books and devotionals are often based on their own experiences and stories which they share with the reader. It is so easy to lose interest in writers who base their works on their own personal stories.  Its often a chore to trudge through someone's personal anecdotes and I find they usually alienate those readers whose lives differ and can not relate to the specific experience.  Darlene leaves out the personal anecdotes to her credit which is a big plus!  I found the material varied enough to keep any reader's  interest as there were devotionals based on Christian day to day living, passaged based on biblical personalities, bible events, and focus on psalms and hymns.  This devotional book is certainly not monotonous. I can see how a reader may be tempted to read large chunks of this book in one sitting rather than simply one devotional per day for an entire year.  Overall, I found the regal presentation worthy of the devotionals presented.  As a blogger I received this book published by Bethany House for the purpose of writing this review.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Sunflower Summer - Postcards From Misty Harbor Inn

Sunflower Summer  by Evangeline Kelly is a new book of the newly created fiction series, Postcards From Misty Harbor Inn. Finally an entertaining, yet wholesome work of fiction in the Christian genre that is NOT Amish and NOT a  romance novel.  Evangeline Kelly is actually a pen name for a team of women that authored the new series: Patti Berg, Pam Andrews, Barbara Hanson and Camy Tang.  The writing is enjoyable and professional-  offensive slang writing and individual eccentricities or opinions do not interfere or detract from the writing as is often case in books authored by a single writer.  This is a book that a reader can truly enjoy. While this is considered  a book in the Christian genre, all readers will enjoy this book.  In this case the label "Christian" refers to the fact you won't find foul language and explicit adult scenes, and secondly that the characters act with respect to their morals.

It is refreshing to read a book that breaks free from the stereotypical young, beautiful heroine whose life's mission is to snag a husband.  Social norms are challenged and reworked.  Based on the book market one might conclude that all readers are in their young twenties looking for their first love!  Yet this book series, and its main characters, three middle aged sisters,  will have a wider appeal to include an often overlooked group of readers that is often alienated. Rather than the too often used naïve 19 year old young Amish girl looking to marry for the first time, or the young widowed 24 year old woman in the old West, pursuing a weathered cowboy on a horse, pondering remarriage, this book is not focused on marriage or romance or young beautiful heroines.  In fact the author portrays the three middle aged sisters with respect and dignity, capable of being fashionable, independent and adventurous whereas society all too often confines such demographic groups to the limited the role of a spinster. 

Sunflower Summer centers around three sisters who start a new life in renovating an old piece of property and transforming it into an Inn in a popular vacation spot.  Each sister has her own personal battles  and challenges to face while at the same time contributing to making the grand opening of the Inn a success.  The guests at the Inn are just as varied as life itself- from the young newlyweds to the mysterious, dignified- yet aged, reclusive former English actress.  The complex characters are well developed for an omnipotent view of each of the sisters' thoughts and emotions.  To add additional element of mystery a sub plot focuses on a mysterious hidden room in the aged Inn and its mysterious history.  Another subplot centers around one of the sisters' strained relationships with a man that she had known for years.  Yet this "romantic" relationship does not overtake the entire novel.  There is just enough mention of her relationship in order to communicate to the reader that the eldest sister Caroline is stressing and distracted about facing a future of uncertainty and loneliness. In fact I am sure that  many readers may be facing similar fears of loneliness and uncertainty as well and can relate. As far as the serene setting-  the readers will find themselves caught up in the day to day workings of the Inn, the parade and the excitement of preparing the Inn for guests.  Sunflower Summer is the second book in the series.  This book can be read independently of the first, but as a reader I find that reading the first book would have shed some light into some of the background behind the three sisters and the story behind the decision to start an Inn.  I happened to win this copy of the book through Litfuse publicity,  published by Guideposts publishers.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Downside Up by Tracey Mitchell

Downside Up: Transform Rejection Into Your Golden Opportunity by Tracey Mitchell is a self help book written from a Christian point of view, that targets itself directly at overcoming dysfunctional relationships.  Initially when I first took a glimpse at this book and its title, I assumed the author was writing about rejection in general.  I prepared myself to read a pep talk about career change, finding motivation and the typical skills assessment quiz needed for landing a perfect job.  All this would have been find as I find myself currently unemployed due to job lay offs.  Yet, I was pleasantly surprised to find this book to be about another very relevant issue- interpersonal relationships as well as the related topics such as self esteem, codependency, and jealousy.  These problems,  in the context of every possible dysfunctional human relationship conceivable is covered: mother- daughter, mother- son,  siblings, boyfriend- girlfriend, and husband - wife.  The cheerful cover is perfect in dealing with an emotionally difficult subject- perhaps in an attempt to make light of the shame and humiliation and pain often associated with dysfunctional familial and romantic relationships.   Mitchell discusses the basic human needs for love, companionship and acceptance.  Furthermore, she explains that from childhood, maladaptive coping mechanisms may have been created and reinforced.  As a result, problems with relationships surface and are doomed to repeat themselves.  The reader may find herself suddenly alone and rejected by a boyfriend or even husband.  Rather than to languish in self pity or depression, the author challenges the reader to reach for self confidence and to try and correct the problem.  Rejection is a springboard for change- either in removing a toxic individual from one's life or in changing the reader's own toxic habits and reactions.  Rejection is a good thing in that it often ends a destructive relationship and allows us to start from square one.  The author starts off presenting her faith in God in the spirit of full disclosure.  Yet I feel all readers, religious and secular alike will benefit from this book.  And in the end only God can fill that void- not other people or relationships. This book is perfect for those readers who cant break free from destructive relationships.  It would also make a good gift for anyone in need of a wake up call.  As a blogger for Booksneeze I received this book published by Thomas Nelson for the purpose of writing this review.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Messiah Matrix by Kenneth John Atchity

The newly published fiction novel, The Messiah Matrix by Kenneth John Atchity is a unique hybrid of a detective story, history, and religious fantasy tale in one story.  Atchity serves up a large dose of religious conspiracy theory to satisfy the discriminating tastes of even the most paranoid, staunch atheist reader.

The author goes into extensive detail describing a fictitious, yet well woven quasi-historical  theory of the origins of the Roman Catholic Church and Jesus. In fact, the same readers that actually believed Dan Brown's intricate tales of church intrigue and conspiracy theories in the fictional novel, The Davinci Code, may be the very same gullible readers who may believe that Atchity's tale is in fact true. Because of its realism, I would advise impressionable individuals to pass this novel up as they may be easily led to believe it is true. Yet, this imaginative tale far exceeds the talents of the popular Dan Brown novel with its insertion of authentic historical details and the unique, and unexpected climactic end. I was quite surprised at the  imagination of Atchity.  This fictional work can almost be deemed a clever attempt to re-write ancient history and undermine the authenticity of the biblical gospel and new testament.  At minimum this book calls into question the authority and the credibility of the Christian church, and more specifically, the Roman Catholic Church.  The inclusion of authentic and relevant details intertwined with fictional details, make this a clever piece of deception and this work  may leave the uneducated reader who is less grounded in history, second guessing what he thinks he knows about ancient history and religion.  Nominally religious readers may find they lose their faith altogether.  The insertion of a look a like "Imprimature" on the book's spine may mislead some Catholic readers into thinking this is a religious book sanctioned by the church.  I am fairly certain the bait and switch attempt to draw in the religious audience is not the author's intent. The ancient Catholic symbol of the Chi-Ro within the text, Latin phrases and the illustrations of actual ancient Roman coinage as well as fictionalized false coinage all serve to complete an aura of authenticity in selling this  alternate "historical" reality to the reader.

History as well as archeology enthusiasts  will enjoy the vivid depictions of the sites, fictionalized ancient accounts, historical figures  and archeological references in the various historical time periods and various ancient  cultures.  Josephus, the Roman emperors, Constantine, Herod as well as other ancient personalities are referenced.   The non religious historical details, ancient philosophies and beliefs are educational as well as entertaining.  This book presents a very interesting scenario  of an alternate historical reality involving commonly known events in ancient classical history- namely Jesus, the ancient church and ancient Rome.  The history student will find this book entertaining as an intriguing "what if" type of historical scenario.  In light of all those apocryphal gospels such as the gospel of Thomas and the false works that allegedly claim to bring to light the  infancy and so called "lost" years of Jesus, this book  adds to the plethora of confusion, mystery and subterfuge surrounding the bible and church history.  It even has its own gospel according to Augustus. 

I feel that the author's biases against organized religion- specifically the Catholic church is obvious in the writing details.  For example, any reference to a Catholic sacrament included additional opinion as to its efficacy.  For example as early as page 11, the author's opinion is introduced when he calls into questions the last rights offered by the priest in the statement that the absolution "may or may not have opened" the eternal gates.  In otherwords, Atchity second guesses the effectiveness of the sacraments.  Some religious Catholic readers who catch these subtle insults to their faith might take offense. The appendix or chart in the back of the book boldly equates biblical history as "Mythical" history.  Actual historical events are set side by side with biblical events that he calls myth.  Parallels and connections are made between the divine claims of  Jesus with the Roman Caesar. Biblical concepts and spiritual phrases such as the "Keys to the Kingdom", "den of thieves", "loaves and fishes", "hell", "He is risen" and "Son of God" are reinterpreted with new meaning.  Literal and practical interpretations replace the biblical, faith based meanings.  The implication is that the gospels have been misread and misinterpreted, and there is another non spiritual explanation and that the Catholic church has been responsible for a cover-up fooling even sincere clergy as well as the faithful laymen.  Nevertheless, the author is a talented writer, who puts together an intelligently written, researched  work of fiction that will be sure to engage even the most educated reader. The extent of factual historical information might lose some modern day readers.  Yet I feel the detailed historical elements adds to its value and richness as it transports the reader to ancient Rome.  It is not surprising to learn that Atchity is a college professor. To give details as to the actual storyline and the historical scenario presented, would surely spoil the book's surprise for those who wish to read it.  Therefore I find I have to cut this review short.  It is sufficient to say  that the author provides an alternate, non religious, yet interestingly  literal interpretation of some faith based elements of biblical history.  I can imagine the author bursting with excitement in anticipation as to the reactions of surprise  that readers,  as well as his professional colleagues - will certainly have when they get to the end of the story. 

As a blogger , I received a free copy of this book for review published by the Story Merchant and Imprimatur Britannia. I was not required to write a positive review and the ideas expressed are my own.
"What if ? " scenario....... Alternate historical scenario (fictitious ancient coin depicts Jesus). Important point to remember- this is a work of fiction.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Clear Winter Nights by Trevin Wax

Clear Winter Nights: A Journey into Truth, Doubt and What comes After by Trevin Wax is a short apologetic work in the form of a fictional story.  On the surface, the story seems a bit typical with the young recent college graduate, a twenty one year old man named Chris,  considering marriage and a new endeavor as a leader in a church.  Chris' fiancé, Ashley, is unfavorably portrayed as a clingy, naïve girl whose sole focus is on marriage.  Who can blame the newly graduated young man who questions his decision to marry.  In fact, as an older reader, I feel that breaking off the engagement was a wise decision, and not in of itself  a reflection of a crisis in faith.  I really dislike how the author equates Chris' uncertainty about marriage with his uncertainty about faith. In fact on page 144 it explains, "On one side were Jesus and Ashley. On the other, an obscure vision of himself."  This artificial dilemma is ridiculous and I found it unsettling that the author would equates these two things as on the same level. 

 Once the reader gets past this side plot of the stagnant superficial relationship an entirely new, deeper meaning to the story emerges.  In essence, as indicated by the subtitle, "theology in story"- this book is the perfect apologetic and theological tool. Just about every theological objection and issue is brought up, such as the ideas of relativism and absolutes, morality, world religions, the historical accuracy of scripture, the divine nature of Jesus, grace and even homosexuality.  The story centers around a series of dialogs between Chris and his grandfather- a former preacher, during the course of a holiday weekend.  In fact the clear winter nights of the title reflect Chris' newly found clarity concerning certain unpleasant life circumstances as well as the questions and doubts that follow.  Chris begins to question his beliefs and in light of his objections, his grandfather lovingly, yet firmly responds in light of scriptural truth.  In the end, Chris is able to forgive his father who he had been holding a grudge against and recover his faith.  The story ends with Chris rushing to reconcile with his fiancé.  I can't help but find myself disappointed as I felt his initial decision to hold off on the relationship to be wise in light of his age and the girlfriend's demanding. clingy nature, and immature spirituality.  I feel this book would be good for any young adult who may or may not be questioning his faith.  I believe rushing into a marriage at 21 sends the young reader the wrong message, nevertheless.  It was hard to get past this aspect of the story.  As a blogger I received this book published by Multnomah publishers for the purpose of writing this review.