Friday, November 21, 2014

Dead Ringer by Allen Wyler

Dead RingerDead Ringer by Allen Wyler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While I don't read as much fiction these days, I do enjoy a good medical thriller now and then. This one was fast-paced and suspenseful and eerily realistic! The idea of a black market for body parts and cadavers is likely true and makes you think about how many people die as a result of it.
I rated this book 3 1/2 stars. It would have been 4 stars but I felt that the swearing was more excessive than it needed to be. Other than that, it was a great read, drawing the reader into the world of a neurosurgeon whose life is upended when at a medical conference the cadaver's head being used looks just like his best friend! When he returns home and discovers his friend is missing, he is pulled into the missing persons world where he connects with a cop looking for a missing prostitute. From there the black market of body parts is revealed.
If you like suspense and medical thrillers, you will enjoy this look into the dark side of a mortuary.

*I received a copy of this ebook free from the publisher Astor + Blue in exchange for my review.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Exploring Christian Theology, Vol. One: Revelation, Scripture, and the Triune God

Exploring Christian Theology, Volume I: Revelation, Scripture, and the Triune GodExploring Christian Theology, Volume I: Revelation, Scripture, and the Triune God by Michael J. Svigel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very down-to-earth, accessible, easy-to-read volume on the doctrines of Scripture and the Trinity. Many people are put off by the idea of theology and think it is primarily for scholars and theologians. But everyone has a theology whether they realize it or not. And our theology or view of who God is, affects our daily lives. This book puts theology in an understandable format, making it easy to grasp for the average person. What we believe is our theology and good theology is needed to live a life in accordance with God's Word.
After a brief overview of the Christian story in 4 acts, this book is divided into 2 sections: Revelation and Scripture, and The Trinity. Each part then breaks down the doctrine in the following sections:

  • High Altitude Survey 
  • Passages to Master - a look at key passages that explore this particular doctrine
  • In Retrospect - what did the past teach regarding this doctrine? A look at church history
  • Facts to Never Forget - key truths regarding this doctrine
  • Dangers to Avoid - some of the heresies that have arisen in the past from this doctrine
  • Principles to Put into Practice - how is this doctrine practical for my daily life?
  • Voices from the Past and Present - key church fathers, theologians and others' quotes regarding this doctrine
  • Shelf Space - further recommending reading to dive further into this subject

Each section is well-written and concise. For those looking for a beginning-level curriculum for small group or Sunday School classes, this volume would make an excellent choice to go through together to better understand and grasp the doctrine of Scripture and the Trinity.

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher Bethany House in exchange for my review.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Company We Keep by Jonathan Holmes

The Company We Keep: In Search of Biblical Friendship
by Jonathan Holmes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a fast-paced world of technology, friendships easily become surface and superficial. But God has called us as Christians for something more as the body of Christ. In this book, the author takes a look at biblical friendships: what they are, what they aren't and traits to develop to become a biblical friend.
"Truly biblical friendship is embodied in the Trinity, empowered by Jesus Christ, and intended as a spiritual discipline among God's people for the purpose of glorifying him."
Biblical friendship is intended to be a testimony to other Christians and to be a witness to the outside world of the love of Christ. Some of the traits needed to develop this type of friendship are constancy, candor, carefulness and counsel. These types of friendship take time to build and must be continued on through the good and the bad, helping each other in time of need. Transparency is needed, yet carefulness to guard the others' private concerns. Counsel is seen throughout Proverbs as being a characteristic of biblical friendship. Traits to guard against that will destroy a biblical friendship are hurtful speech, such as gossip or slander, anger and jealousy.
Biblical friendships take time and must be more than just the online status quo that is so prevalent among friendships today. This book is a needed reminder of what true friendship looks like in a day and age when often friends are treated as one more project or program in our lives.

*I was sent a copy of this book free from the publisher Cruciform Press in exchange for my review.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Discipleship and the Church

I've been thinking a lot lately about what the purpose for the church is. Why does the church exist? What is it supposed to accomplish? And along those lines, what exactly is discipleship? How does that look in someone's life?
Matthew 28:19-20 is often referred to as the Great Commission. It is Jesus giving His disciples the command to go and make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them. I look at this as being the purpose behind why as Christians we remain on this earth after our salvation, rather than immediately being caught up to heaven. Our salvation isn't the end but rather the beginning of our relationship with God, where we become disciples of Jesus, learners of who He is and how He lived. We then take what we learn, teach it to others that they also would become disciples of Jesus.
While the church may have many reasons for existing, I think its primary purpose is to make disciples. So what is discipleship? A disciple is a learner, a follower. A disciple of Jesus is one who follows Jesus and learns from Him. The church needs to teach who Jesus is, so that His disciples may learn more about Him and how to better follow Him. There's a lot more involved in discipleship but the short answer is following Jesus, obeying His commands.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Anxious by Amy Simpson

Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of WorryAnxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry by Amy Simpson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Most of us are prone to worry. And what's not to worry about? The world we live in is increasingly scary, difficult and uncertain. But as Christians we know a God who is above all of that. In this book, the author takes us through how worry affects us, not only emotionally but physically. And then walks us through the Bible and the many admonitions by God to not worry but put our trust in Him instead. She examines several examples throughout Scripture of how God's people faced seemingly impossible circumstances, yet God overcame and worked through them.
Ultimately, worry comes down to our theology and what we believe about God. If we are worrying, we are not trusting God. This book gives a rundown of who God is and why we can put our trust in Him.
"We, who are among the most comfortable Christians in history, have no business embracing fear and letting worry drain us of the strength God gives. It's time for us to repent of worry, recognize we can make a different choice, and pursue the frightening freedom and baffling peace of trust in God."
Examples are given of what it was like for people during the Bible times who were asked by God to trust Him. They didn't have the written Scriptures like we do. How much more should we be able to trust God, having the evidence of His faithfulness throughout the Bible?
"This is not about simply 'handing our worries over to God'; it's about understanding how incredibly powerful and trustworthy God is, how much higher his ways are than ours, how ridiculous it is for us to cling to the illusion of control and the fear of what is small in God's view. It's about putting our concerns in their proper place, in relationship to God's concerns. It's about who God is, not who we are. It means taking seriously Paul's instruction to 'let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think' (Rom 12:2)."
This short, easy-to-read book packs a good punch in the battle against worry that we face. Reasons to worry abound, but reasons to trust God abound even more. While not taking lightly the struggle of worry, the author reminds us that God is all-powerful, compassionate and in control, Someone who is trustworthy and has proved that over and over. A recommended read for those who struggle with worry, offering encouragement to grow in our trust in God.

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for my review.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Faith: A Bible Study on James for Women by Keri Folmar

Having done the Philippians study by Keri Folmar, the James study follows a similar format.

Using the inductive process of observation, interpretation and application, this study guide asks questions for each stage. The symbol of an eye marks observation questions - asking what the text is saying. A cross-like symbol marks the interpretation questions - what do these verses mean, while a heart symbol marks the application questions - making it personal in our own lives.
I am currently doing this study with my mom, sister and sister-in-law and it's a great way to encourage each other in our study of God's Word, sharing what we've learned from James and from the questions that this study guide asks.
For those who sometimes feel stuck in trying to study the Bible on their own, this guide is a great resource to use in helping to ask questions of the text, using cross-references to draw out the truths, and getting personal with the application questions so that one doesn't just walk away without seeing how God's Word is applicable to our daily lives. James is also a very practical book, putting our faith into action. Another great study for digging into the Bible!

*I received a copy of this Bible Study free from the publisher Cruciform Press in exchange for my review.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Schaeffer on the Christian Life by William Edgar

Schaeffer on the Christian Life: Countercultural SpiritualitySchaeffer on the Christian Life: Countercultural Spirituality by William Edgar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Of the books I've read in the Theologians on the Christian Life series, this one is my favorite. I was drawn into it immediately in hearing the story of Francis and Edith Schaeffer's life. The author is one who went to L'Abri, the ministry that the Schaeffers started, and knew the Schaeffers personally, so personal anecdotes are woven into the story.
I knew a little bit about Schaeffer from college, when I took "Introduction to Fine Arts" and we read the book How Should We Then Live? and watched the film. At the time, I thought it was fairly boring. :-) My interests have changed a bit since then and I'm much more interested in culture and worldviews, so reading about Schaeffer is much more fascinating. We already own several of Schaeffer's books that I have yet to read but want to; so in reading this book, I became even more eager to read the Schaeffer books that we have (and plan to dive into The God Who Is There shortly).
While the book covers biographical info about the Schaeffers and how the ministry of L'Abri started, it also talks about Francis' views of the Christian life. Much of his views can be found in his book True Spirituality. I found it interesting since I recently read a book on John Wesley and his view on Christian perfectionism, that this book addressed Schaeffer's disagreement with Wesley on Christians reaching perfectionism in this lifetime.
I would definitely recommend this book to learn more about Francis Schaeffer and the ministry of L'Abri, which was influential in many lives over the years. These paragraphs sum up the book nicely:
"A number of years ago, McKendree Langley wrote an important book on Abraham Kuyper, titled The Practice of Political Spirituality. This title well expresses how Francis Schaeffer viewed public life. For him all of life, including politics, was a matter of spirituality, just as were prayer life, Bible reading, and the like. Not that he confused the church and the state, as we have seen. Nor that church life should be ignored, or that doing politics, writing a poem, making a scientific discovery, raising a family, and so on are strictly the same kinds of activities. yet in a deep sense, they are spiritual activities. For Schaeffer, then, spirituality was not restricted to the special practices we often associate with religious devotion.
Here we can emulate the Schaeffers' approach, without necessarily living exactly as they did. The work of L'Abri may not be absolutely unique, but such a community-with its approach to prayer, to holding seminars, to discussing major issues around the meal table-is a special model for engaging culture. Other models might look different, though they are no less valid. I know of seminaries and churches that have culture and vocation programs, and of other para-church works that are focused on a particular realm of life, such as science, politics, or the arts. What we should take away from the Schaeffers' teaching and example, and indeed, from the ongoing work of L'Abri around the world, is that Christ is Lord of all of life, and because of that, there is no realm of life not subject to our scrutiny and to our calling as Christians in the world. For many, this message and this practice represent what is so wonderful, so exciting, about the Schaeffer legacy."

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher Crossway in exchange for my review.