Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The NIV Essentials Study Bible

If you want to own one single bible that is good for study as well as devotional time and reflection, the NIV Essentials Study Bible is the only bible you will need.  This bible has every study feature you could ever ask for in a bible- including historical, theological and life application information.  This bible is full of bible helps on just about every page: maps, charts, illustrations, black and white photographs as well as the traditional study notes on the bottom of the page.  This bible is great for new bible readers as well experienced readers. Nevertheless, with the new release of other full color study bibles by Zondervan and Thomas Nelson, I feel the Essentials bible in black and white is already dated or obsolete.  I don't see where it fits and almost seems redundant in light of all the newly released full color study options.

As far as everyday study, the font is big enough so as not to require the reader to squint.  Unlike most study bibles where the bible text is extremely tiny, I found the bible text to be readable.  The contrasting blue graphics, and blue headlines in bold font,  add visual appeal as well.  The side bars of information and the articles break up the bible text. Underneath the dust jacket, the glossy finish black cover is fairly standard, reminiscent of a generic pew bible, which is perfectly fine for those who prefer traditional bible covers.

The only improvement that would make this bible even better is if there was full color throughout.  The inside dust jacket depicts the various bible resources from which this bible compendium was created.  One of the resources listed included the full color 1984 NIV translation Archeological study bible.  Having had the Archeological study bible for many years, I am most impressed with the full color interior and photos of that particular  bible.  I feel it is a shame, that a marketing reference to this wonderful bible is included on the dust jacket, and I wonder why the publishers could not have made the Essentials Study Bible in full color as well.  To me, listing each individual bible simply seems like a marketing or advertising tool in a last attempt to sell more of the older bibles in the Zondervan line.  Personally with the NIV Essentials Study bible- I do not feel any bible reader would ever need to buy another study bible- unless of course it was in full color which is the one major shortfall when comparing this bible with some of the other Zondervan study bibles. In my opinion, anyone who invests their money in purchasing this high end bible, is not likely to turn around and purchase another bible right away.  At some point, owning multiple study bibles is redundant.

For anyone looking for a good bible that will provide a lifetime of value and study, the NIV Essentials bible is possible among the top choices. I have been spoiled by full color bibles and would pass this one up for a full color study bible instead. As a blogger for booklook I received a copy of this book.

Friday, December 13, 2013

What Happens When I Die by Bill Wiese

What Happens When I Die by Bill Wiese is a compilation of evidence from scripture as well as collective near death experiences that support the afterlife. Coming from a respected authority- this credible book bears great spiritual weight.

The title of Wiese's book,  makes a pretty bold claim.  Especially bold are the promises to inform the reader about specific aspects of Heaven  through a variety of sources, visions and even literal visits to heaven and hell. This book is a great springboard or outreach tool to introduce any reader to the gospel message.  As far as marketing, this book will draw in many curious reader- religious and secular, alike.  Many readers, filled with curiosity- most of which probably have only  limited experience or a superficial grasp of the actual text of the bible, will find it hard to resist a book with such monumental claims.  To add additional legitimacy and authenticity- the author provides a variety of sources.  This book is not simply the product of one person's vision but a compilation of shared experiences- yet distinct that support the basic scriptural message of the afterlife.

Nevertheless, Weise's thought provoking book  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. 

 The reader places his faith by accepting the word of the  the author of this book.    Once the reader decides to accept the author's word that the various  stories  are legit,  it is up to the reader to discern the source or supernatural power behind the NDEs. This is where most readers will most likely accept with blind faith that these wholeheartedly are true accounts 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 experiences are 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 as accomplished and respected Christian speaker and authority might be decieved and misinterpret the collective experiences 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 contained in the bible. As Paul himself suggested in his letters, it is wise to be skeptical of private visions, and he himself never endorsed or encouraged any believer to believe any private vision or revelation. In a book about heaven, for the purpose of credibility and fidelity to bible, I believe any extraneous visions, dreams, experiences etc that are not divinely inspired/ biblical should be carefully considered  before taken to heart.

As far as the other details- knowledge and information could be obtained from evil sources for the purpose of adding "authenticity" and misleading believers into believeing the other aspects of the visions  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 Christian elites, educators, leaders and the faithful, 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.  In sum, the sole purpose of this book isn't in the after death experiences or sensational stories, but rather to deliver the life saving message of the gospel.  These stories serve as a springboard or bait- in the true sense in which Jesus refers to all apostles, followers and believers as fishers of men.

All in all there is no doubt that Wiese has written this book with authority and scholarship. The author has left no stone uncovered in his survey of the subject of the afterlife.  This book is so complete that it could even serve as an academic text.  There is additional information in the appendixes on the authenticity of the bible and biblical prophecy.  The overall purpose is to give the reader a sense of urgency and to come to faith in the true Gospel.  That is after all the purpose of the gift of salvation through the Good News.  And in this sense, Weise has accomplished his purpose- tailoring his book to a receptive audience in a package that is irresistible to countless curious, and spiritually hungry readers.

As a blogger for the Booketeria  I received this book from Charisma house  publishers for the purpose of writing this review.  It is with caution I would suggest this book to anyone to read  as it is best for serious study for a reader that is willing to take the time to discern, in light of scripture, the validity of the messages from collective after death experiences.

Trapped by Lawrence W. Gold, M.D.

Written with the authenticity that can only be captured by a professional, the new medical thriller, Trapped by Lawrence W. Gold, M.D. will capture the attention of any reader.  There are endless titles available in the ever growing medical thriller genre.  What sets this book above and beyond is the authentic medical details that could only be provided by an experienced medical doctor.  With years of experience with his medical practice and education, the realistic medical details provided in the area of neuroscience and perinatology will draw in those readers who crave more than mindless entertainment.

Gold's writing style is authentic and detailed- what one might expect from a medical doctor.  The story focuses on a couple, Lisa and Mike,  overwhelmed by two separate medical battles: high risk pregnancy and brain trauma.  The "locked in syndrome" is a mysterious and frightening rare medical condition which claims as its victim, Mike, as a result of an auto accident in the storyline.  The author goes deep into the thoughts and feelings of Mike during his living nightmare of "locked in syndrome".  Not only are authentic medical details provided, but the depth of emotion, anguish, and pain is vividly portrayed as well.  As a  reader, I found myself wanting to read this book from start to finish, simply to see the resolution of Mark's story. 

Many of the chapters are marked based on Lisa's pregnancy - "weeks 7-11", and "week 33", for example. This added to the dramatic effect of time in the high risk pregnancy where every week counts.  The author realistically depicted the social and emotional aspects of a modern high risk pregnancy, that Lisa experienced,  on her own while her husband was hospital confined.  He effectively captured the tense circumstances in which a single pregnant mom must depend on an extended social network for emotional support.  Not only that, but realistic medical explanation and description is provided for Lisa's high risk pregnancy. Her pregnancy is marked with anxiety as she is in and out of the hospital for various episodes of bleeding. Her emotional resources are overwhelmed as she must also consider Mike's prognosis. These details: medical and emotional, which would largely be overlooked or vaguely described by most authors, are treated with careful attention by Gold.  

This book, Trapped is one of a series of novels, the Brier Hospital Series.  These plots go beyond prime time television medical dramas in their authenticity.  Nevertheless, I can see how this storyline could easily be translated to a television drama series.  This book is a great choice for anyo reader who enjoys medical thrillers.  As a blogger I received a copy of this book, published by Grass Valley Publishing for the purpose of writing this review.

To learn more about this author, please visit....

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

There Are No Space Aliens! by David J Gonzalez

The definitive title, of the book There Are No Space Aliens! by David J Gonzalez, leaves no doubt as to the author's position in regards to possible life in outer space.  This timely book addresses the biblical objections to the theories of alien life that so many are readily willing to place their faith.  In this day and age, media and movies are inundated with alien themes.  The science fiction movies and television series of today, present the audience with plausible sounding theories of alien life forms. Ironically, often those who reject the notion of God's existence are more than willing to place their faith in the existence of alien life.  Nevertheless, this book isn't written just in response to religious skeptics and atheists,  but  for the ever growing number of religious people who also believe in the possibility of alien life as well. 

Using the bible as a springboard, Gonzalez refutes the erroneous ideas and theories about alien life.  First and foremost, I believe the strongest argument against the idea of alien life- is simply the fact that the bible does not mention other worlds and other life forms.  And an overlooked argument, based on common sense- is the fact that there would be no provision for an alien on another world to receive Jesus as its savior.  Scripture plain and simple, as well as common sense dictate that aliens could not exist.  Its amazing how many adults reject common sense and logic. Even Christians do not realize how a belief in aliens strips down and erodes the validity of scripture as it is direct opposition to revealed revelation from God.  Nevertheless the author goes in deeper, exploring the theological implications and contradictions that would exist if in fact there were alien worlds and alien life forms. The author organizes the book by 12 main biblical points that disprove the existence of space aliens. Each point is its own chapter.  The author breaks up the text into short, bite sized paragraphs which will help to keep the reader's attention and focus, in contrast to longer monotonous sized chunks of text.  This book explores the depths of theology, Christian scholarship and logic, and relates how the basic tenants of Christian faith and theology are inconsistent with a belief in alien life forms. This book makes a valuable apologetic tool for any parent who finds himself faced with answering a question about aliens, or student who is faced with peers who assume the possibility of alien life is simply an extension of common sense. 

This book is the second edition, from the original edition printed in 2003.  I received a copy for the purpose of writing this review.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Emma of Aurora by Jane Kirkpatrick

Emma of Aurora is a compendium of the three books of the "Change & Cherish" trilogy by Jane Kirkpatrick.  In this sizable 1153 page volume, the complete text of the three novels: A Clearing in the Wild, A Tendering in the Storm and A mending at the Edge, are contained. These novels are based on the true life account of Emma Wagner Giesy.As with Kirkpatrick's other works of historical fiction, this book will not disappoint readers who are expecting an in-depth, multilayered story in which a woman of incredible moral strength and perseverance makes decisions that are incomprehensible to today's softened, entitled society. Kirkpatrick writes in the tradition of Bronte's Jane Eye and other classical works featuring strong female characters and in-depth challenges.

Jane Kirkpatrick's fiction stands out as more authentic and engaging than most traditional works  under the umbrella called the  "Christian" genre.  Most "Christian" novels are either Amish love stories or just simply romance stories in general. Even the genre "historical" fiction usually is another name for a romance novel that takes place either in Amish country or in the 1800s old west.  True to its claim, it actually is to be considered a historical fiction novel  True details about society's standards, the townspeople and technologies are faithfully included.  Even the descriptions of towns, characters and circumstances are well researched right to the very last little detail. Historical facts and accuracy enlighten the reader as well as add to the authenticity.  This compendium book held my attention from the start.  It was not a chore to read- as there is always an engaging setting, or authentic heart wrenching emotional experience.   Furthermore, the course of the story and its events were unexpected and as well as the endings.  Unlike typical books, in which there is a typical fairy tale happy ending in which the heroine gets married and has children, this story an a non traditional happy ending where as the heroine, a strong, independant woman, remained strong, independant and single despite disspointements, rejection  and  hardship.  This book brought on a new twist to society's perception of a happy ending.

The poignant expressive writing jumps out at the reader. For example, after the birth of Emma's first child, without her husband, Emma finds herself unable to breastfeed her newborn baby.  The reader can share in the pain, frustration and desperation as Emma helplessly watches her infant son's life slowly pass away- from the crying and the limpness of her suffering baby.  Emma's desperate last hope to reach out to another mother to feed her child shows the fearlessness and desperation of Emma.  Emma's reunion with her husband Christian, after the birth of her child is not the fairy tale reunion one would find in a typical romance or Disney movie.  In an unexpected turn, her husband is cold, distant and accusatory.  This emotional portrayal of a man is characteristic of what one would find in the historical period where this story takes place.  While it is true- that the raw emotions and unexpected coldness may not appeal to those readers looking for romance, this is a hallmark of Kirkpatrick- to deliver an entertaining story that is not predictable.  This is just what makes her fiction works stand out from the rest.

The author challenges the common social norms of the marital  relationship, authority and sense of duty.  Emma is portrayed as  enthusiastic, wishful and strong- willed woman.  She is willing to confront and change society's standard of the role of women.  Yet her traditional  sense of duty and loyalty ensures that she will obey and follow her husband's wishes.  There is no disrespect or refusal.  All the characters have distinct yet strong moral characters and a  strong sense of familial duty, and religious faith even though the expression is vastly different.

There is risk and danger involved- physical and emotional as well, yet hope drives Helga to pursue the course.   A map chronicles the path of their journey.  I found myself turning to the map in order to get a preview of how far into their journey that they were.  Yet, the story doesn't have the traditional happy ending as the author and her family are faced by disapointments and hardships. The reader follows Emma's life in the saga.  There is a sense that the reader follows along in real-time, the span of her life throughout these three books. Authentic touches such as the "Cast of Characters", the maps, the German and Chinook glossary and finally the "The Aurora Colony Articles of Agreement- 1867" add extra historical richness to this account.  As a blogger for WaterBrook publishers I received this book for the purpose of writing this review.  the opinions expressed are my own.