Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Marked by Love by Tim Stevens

Stevens reminds us in this world of anger and hate that Jesus was marked by love. He has included thirty readings, thirty challenges to see if our lives are marked by love. It is only by love that we can change the world.

My favorite reading was the fifth one, Famous Last Words. After telling a couple of stories about dying people and their last words, he writes about Jesus washing his disciples' feet. John 13:13-14 says Jesus knew God the Father had put all things under his power. Then he washes the feet. Jesus knew He was the most powerful person on the planet yet showed His love by doing a servant task. In case the disciples miss the lesson, Jesus tells them, “This is how you love one another.” (Loc. 360/2237) This changes everything, Stevens says. “What if love became the filter through which everything [we] did or said flowed?” (Loc 374/2237) How would that change our relationships, our discussions, our actions?

That is just one of the thought provoking chapters Stevens has included in the book. His writing is not preachy nor accusative. He honestly shares his journey, frustrated with “Christians” giving Jesus a bad name. (Loc 413/2237) His problem is not with Jesus, he says, but with what Christianity has become. (Loc 435/2237)

I recommend this book to people who are frustrated with Christianity today. If you want to be marked by love, to be a different kind of Christian, this book will give you good encouragement to be so. You won't be preached at. You'll only read some really thought provoking essays that just might change your idea of what it means to be a Jesus follower. You may not agree with everything Stevens writes. I didn't. But I did appreciate the challenges.

Food for thought: “...you can study all you want … you can win every religious argument – but if you aren't becoming more loving in the process, then it is all worthless.” (Loc 103/2237)

More food for thought: “Imagine if every person on planet Earth who claims to follow Jesus would do just [these] three things: 1. Love God. 2. Love yourself. 3. Love the next person you see.” (Loc 1035/2237)

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Tim Stevens was on staff at Granger Community Church for twenty years. He now serves as the Executive Search Consultant Team Leader at Vanderbloemen Search Group. He is the author of several books on leadership. You can find out more at https://www.leadingsmart.com/.

Shiloh Run Press, 224 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

A Wrench in the Works by Kate Carlisle

I liked this cozy mystery. While it is part of a series, it read very well on its own. I liked Shannon, a contractor who seems to come upon murdered people way too often. She is following in her father's footsteps, having developed a love for building when she was young. An added dimension for this story was Shannon's sister, Chloe, a popular TV personality on a home fix it program. I really liked the relationship between the two, especially as the two work together as they are filmed for a show. But then Chloe's producer is found murdered and there are suspects galore.

The mystery aspect of the novel was pretty good. There are some quirky characters in the novel and many of them are suspects. I had hoped Shannon would figure out the murderer but it was not meant to be.

I recommend this novel to readers who like a cozy mystery with interesting characters. You'll find heartwarming relationships and a few heated arguments. You'll also learn quit a bit about exterior Victorian d├ęcor, such as spoon carving on wood panels.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Kate Carlisle worked in television before she turned to writing about northern California where Victorian mansions sit on the cliffs. She has written the Fixer-Upper Mysteries and the Bibliophile Mysteries. You can find out more at http://katecarlisle.com/.

Berkley, 304 pages. This book releases November 6.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

This Season of Angels by Perry Stone

Stone has experienced the manifestation of angels and believes such visitations will become more frequent in these end times. We can and should believe God is sending angels to help us.

Stones looks at how angels functioned in the Bible, such as their roles in healing, revelation, dreams and visions, death of believers, salvation, protection, spiritual warfare and judgment. He tells many stories from his own experience, from others he knows and from early church writers.

He has an Appendix at the back of the book including twenty one tough questions about angels. The one I found most fascinating was whether angels might at times appear to look like family members. He notes that angels are generally invisible to us but can take on human appearance, such as when they visited Lot. While Scripture is not clear on this issue, he notes that some people have seen angels who looked much like a loved one. Stone is not conclusive in his answer but does offer much to think about.

I recommend this book to readers who want to know about how angels functioned in the Bible and how they may be operating today. You'll read of many encouraging experiences. You will also be encouraged to pray that God would send His angels to minister to those you care about.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Perry Stone is the bestselling author of numerous books. He directs one of America's fastest growing ministries, The Voice of Evangelism. An international evangelist, Stone holds a BA in theology from Covenant Life Christian College. He and his wife live in Cleveland, Tennessee.

FaithWords, 224 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Win From Within by John W Gray III

Gray was shocked into facing the reality of his life when his wife said she was leaving him. A successful pastor, author, and speaker, he realized he had success on the outside but was a mess on the inside. He took stock of his life. He has written this book to help us do the same.

Gray uses the life of the biblical character Jacob as a framework for his teaching. He writes about God using broken areas, the importance of knowing who we are in Christ, that winning from within is facing ourselves and realizing victory really happens at the spiritual level. Gray desires we listen to the Holy Spirit as He speaks to us about our character. We are to listen to faithful friends who tell us the truth. We are to recognize the hope we have in Christ.

This is an encouraging and thought provoking book. It is encouraging because we see how Gray dealt with a revealing time in his life. Apparently it didn't interfere with his ministry at all as he is now senior pastor of a large church. I also found the book thought provoking and perhaps a bit troublesome. While Gray does a good job of giving life changing principles from the life of Jacob, I missed deep and personal feelings of transformation from him. I felt Gray's experiences have become teaching points and the opportunity to write a book. His writing style seemed to lack a personal level to it. He mentions writing songs at the beginning of his career. “The songs were beautiful. But the songs have no human attached to them.” (Loc 1592/2305) That's sort of how I felt with this book. He uses “we” and “us” rather than making the lessons personal. I just didn't sense the brokenness and humility I would have expected after his wife said she was going to leave him.

I recommend this book as it is a pretty good study on the life of Jacob and what it has to say to us about our transformation. Just don't expect a personal account of how the Jacob like experiences changed the author.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

John W. Gray III is the Senior Pastor of Relentless Church in Greenville, South Carolina (formerly Redemption Church). He continues to serve as an associate pastor at Lakewood Church in Houston. He was named to Oprah's Super Soul 100 and his show, The Book of John Gray, airs on The Oprah Winfrey Network. He lives in Greenville, SC with his wife and their children. You can find out more at http://johngrayworld.com/.

FaithWords, 224 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Truth Matters by Andrew Petiprin

Petiprin believes “the authentic teachings of the Christian faith are the best means of human flourishing.” (Loc 133/2183) It is important to understand the truth about God and relate to Him rightly. How do we find that truth? The documents resulting from strife aim to present a right view of God so that we might be in right relationship with Him. Petiprin uses the frameworks of the historical Apostles' and Nicene Creeds to identify the truths of the Christian faith. He also looks at the heresies as he explores the development of doctrine.

This is a good book to learn about the history of the development of doctrine. Petiprin also explores the expression of Christianity worldwide. He offers a broader view of the many aspects of doctrine than one would find from a typical author. For example, he explores theosis, becoming like God, seen more in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic traditions. He also has an interesting section on icons.

I found Petiprin's style of writing suitable for readers intellectually inclined. For example, when was the last tine you read the word eponymous? (Loc 336/2183) He delves into some Greek and historical situations that scholars may appreciate more than the typical lay person.

You can read a sample here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Andrew K. Petiprin is a priest of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee. He was a Marshall Scholar at Magdalen College, Oxford, and also holds degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and Yale University. He is a regular contributor to the Living Church magazine and other publications. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife and their two children. You can find out more at https://andrewpetiprin.com/.

New Growth Press, 160 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Gospel 101 by Jeff Dodge

It is not always so easy to share the gospel. We say too much or we make it too simple. Dodge wants to help Christians feel more comfortable sharing the gospel so has developed this study. The title is correct. This book contains the basic elements of the gospel. Dodge presents the material in a way that even this seasoned Christian found it interesting and containing some new insights.

I think the strength of this study is the survey. The reader is asked to survey three people about the topic of each study. The emphasis is on being a good listener. There are prompts to further the conversation, depending upon the person's answer. Those exercises are a good way to work into talking to people about Jesus and sharing the gospel.

Dodge provides a Scripture passage and an article to read on each of the basic parts of the gospel. There are questions to answer and the survey to do. The readers then meet in a group setting to discuss.

This is a basic eight week study with an emphasis on preparing people to share the gospel. It would be a good study for new Christians or a refresher course for seasoned Christians. It would also be a good way to form relationships with others learning how to share the gospel.

You can watch the book trailer here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Jeff Dodge, MDiv, DMin, PhD, is the teaching pastor and director of theological formation at Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa. He also directs the Cornerstone School of Theology as part of The Salt Network, a church-planting movement focused on establishing multi-generational churches in major university communities. He and his wife have four children and several grandchildren.

New Growth Press, 128 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Friday, October 26, 2018

You Are Enough by Mandy Hale

Hale has struggled with feeling she is not enough. She writes of a “life crash” in her midtwenties when she was held together by therapy, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. (Loc 626/1480) She suffered from clinical depression in the winter of 2016. Her parents intervened and she ultimately spent time in intense therapy at a mental institution. It was a dark night of the soul for her. God seemed to be hiding and she didn't feel Him. Therapists and a new antidepressant helped her out of that situation. She came through that dark time with the understanding that she was enough, she writes. She knew she was imperfect and messy but enough, she says.

I am not so sure she did understand. A couple of months after the new understanding resulting from her therapy, she felt the need to reconnect with the boyfriend who had previously devastated her with their breakup. Reconnect they did. “As usual,” she writes, “I let my heart get ahead of my head.” (Loc 960/1480) There was talk of marriage. And then she got hurt all over again, finally realizing he would have been wrong for her. She did come to understand that actions reveal truth often hidden by words.

Hale shares her journey and how tragedy brings life into focus and gives a new understanding of who you are. She is honest about her feeling God was absent and not helpful during her dark time. She shares her raw feelings of just needing to survive.

She has not arrived at the point of being convinced she is enough (despite her earlier claims in the book). She still struggles with it, she writes. She wrote this book so she can come back to it and remind herself of the truth. (Loc 1429/1480)

Hale pretty much documents two years of her life. Millennials might like it. Readers who like reading about a young woman's experiences may like this book. Don't expect any conclusive teaching as the author is still struggling with this issue.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Many Hale is a blogger turned New York Times bestselling author. She is the creator of The Single Woman brand, books, blog, and social media platforms. You can find more at https://mandyhale.com/.

FaithWords, 176 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Miles From Where We Started by Cynthia Ruchti Blog Tour


About the Book


Book Title: Miles from Where We Started  
Author: Cynthia Ruchti  
Genre: Christian Romance/Family life  
Release date: October 16, 2018  

These no-longer-newlyweds want out of this road trip—and their marriage. Too bad they can’t find the off ramp.
Weeks away from their one-year wedding anniversary, Mallory and Connor Duncan can’t even agree on how to end their marriage. But when a last-minute crisis lands them on a three-thousand-mile road trip together, Mallory wonders if their story may not be over after all.
The trip begins to unravel before the key is even in the ignition, and an at-risk, trouble-seeking missile of an eleven-year-old is unexpectedly launched into their travel plans. Close quarters get even tighter, and the couple believes this whole experience will spell disaster.
Their first year of marriage hasn’t been the arm-in-arm togetherness they expected. How can they find a new beginning when the road ends?

Click here to purchase your copy!

My Review

This novel is all about relationship repair and renewal. It centers on relationship commitment and what that means. The pace is slow and steady as characters gain insight into themselves and others. At the beginning of the novel, Connor and Mallory discuss ending their marriage. Much of the ensuing story contained bickering dialogue between the two. That might be hard for some readers to appreciate, having had similar experiences.

My favorite character by far was Judah. He is an eleven year old oozing with pain from being abandoned by his mother. He is smart and witty and has more insight into life than most twice his age. We wonder if Connor and Mallory will realize the opportunity for love that stands before them. There are some great secondary characters too, people Connor and Mallory meet on their road trip. They offer much needed insight into successful relationships.

This is a novel for readers who would love to read about a relationship in trouble and the slow and methodical journey toward repair.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author


Cynthia Ruchti tells stories of hope through novels, nonfiction, devotionals, and speaking events. She serves as the professional relations liaison for American Christian Fiction Writers and is a frequent speaker at writers’ conferences across the country. She married her grade school sweetheart, and the two live in the heart of Wisconsin, not far from their three children and five grandchildren.


Guest Post from Cynthia


I have a confession to make. I heart millennials. My other novels have had a few millennial characters. Some even played starring roles. But I knew there was more to the heart of millennials than I could gain from listening to the often unfair sighing or comedy routines about that generation. As a person, I wanted to know them better—what are they really like? What challenges do they face with which previous generations saddled them? What strengths to they offer our culture? Until now, I hadn’t written a story about a millennial couple whose marriage was in crisis. Like, serious crisis. I-don’t-want-to-be-married-to-you-anymore. That kind of crisis. As any good novelist knows, part of what we do to our characters is make the situation worse. So, millennial couple, approaching their one-year anniversary, ready to call it quits because “This marriage thing is really hard. Is it supposed to be so much work?” But what if…? What if they were forced to be together for three weeks…in a micro-camper…on America’s backroads…with an 11-year-old foster boy troublemaker…and both the husband’s AND the wife’s jobs depended on the trip’s success? Plot idea in hand, I set off to write Miles from Where We Started, not entirely sure when I began the journey where they would end up or how they’d get there. It was an education for me in so many ways. The impact of the turning point of the story? In the words of my millennial friends, “That’s lit!” Side note: I’m a big fan of a young teen musician at our church. The boy has mad skills as a keyboard artist. He approaches life as if it’s an endless game of Ninja Warrior. Why walk when you can vault into the room? Why walk up a flight of stairs when you can hop four at a time? He also sports a perpetual smile and is famous for his kindness, but his eyes give away that a little mischief may be hiding behind that smile. I asked Judah’s permission to use his name (and a little bit of his personality) as the foster child character in Miles from Where We Started. I can’t wait for him to read the part he inspired. Can’t wait for you to read it, too. Hemmed in Hope, Cynthia

Blog Stops

The Power of Words, October 25
All-of-a-kind Mom, October 26
Lighthouse Academy, October 26
Quiet Quilter, October 27
Christian Bookaholic, October 27
cherylbbookblog, October 28
Simple Harvest Reads, October 28 (Guest Post from Mindy Houng)
Remembrancy, October 28
Godly Book Reviews, October 29
Captive Dreams Window, October 29
By The Book, October 29
Maureen’s Musings, October 30
Spoken from the Heart , October 30
SusanLovesBooks, October 30
D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, October 31
Mary Hake, November 1
Book by Book, November 1
amandainpa , November 1
Pause for Tales, November 2
Just Commonly, November 2
Baker Kella, November 3
Inklings and Notions, November 4
Bibliophile Reviews, November 4
Texas Book-aholic, November 5
Carpe Diem, November 6
A Diva’s Heart, November 7
Bigreadersite, November 7


I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

This is the Way the World Ends by Jeff Nesbit

If you do not think that climate change is an immediate and deadly problem for humans, you need to read this book. And if you don't think humans are instrumental in the changes happening, you need to read this book.

The oceans are 30% more acidic now than they were at the beginning of the industrial revolution. (42) That's because the oceans have absorbed 525 billion tons of carbon dioxide since then. (41) That came home to where I live in the Pacific Northwest as it has meant problems in oyster production. (46) Coral reefs are in trouble. Half of them have been lost in the last 30 years. (77) That's serious as the reefs are home to a quarter of all marine species. (77)

The arctic sea ice has declined by 30% in the last twenty five years. (54) “More than half of the world's wetlands have disappeared.” (141) Fresh water is ending up in the sea. We are seeing more and more refugees because of lack of water and arable land. Water scarcity is leading to armed conflict.

Greenhouse gases are at levels never seen before in human history. The last four years were the hottest in human history. Rainfall and drought patterns are changing with extreme heat and extreme precipitation. Animals and plants are moving to the poles. (233)

Warnings from scientists are often ignored by U.S. politicians. (7) Perhaps that is because the U.S. is just beginning to see the effects of climate change. “The evidence is overwhelming and irrefutable,” Nesbit writes. (7) “...[C]limate change is happening and humanity is the primary cause.” (8)

I highly recommend this book. We Americans need to understand what is happening in the rest of the world.

Jeff Nesbit was the director of public affairs for two federal science agencies and a senior communications official at the White House. Now the executive director of Climate Nexus, he is a contributing writer for The New York Times, Time, U.S. News & World Report, Axios, and Quartz. He is the author of Poison Tea as well as dozens of novels. He lives in New York.

St. Martin's Press, 336 pages.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Great Reckoning by Stephen Mattson

Could it be that Christ is missing from much of what passes for Christianity today? Have many who say they are Christians abandoned the very virtues of Jesus they claim to follow? (Loc 78/2174)

With penetrating insights like these, Mattson takes a look at what Christianity has become in the United States.

I like how he distinguishes Christendom and Christ followers. Christendom, especially as seen in the United States, depends on carnal power. That is not the case with a true follower of Christ. The gospel that Christendom promotes is one of comfort and does not address the realities of what is happening in the world. True followers of Christ seek to love and help the poor and needy and even their enemies.

Mattson presents some concepts that may not be welcome among white evangelicals. With respect to the government, for example, he asks where our true allegiance should lie. Christians who see political power as a means of furthering their faith may be sacrificing the Kingdom of God for the kingdom of mortals. He writes about war and guns and questions how evangelicals can promote those concepts, abandoning Jesus' example of nonviolence. He writes of the current president and wonders how evangelicals can ignore his sinful behavior for the sake of political power.

And that's just a little bit of how Mattson challenges American Christians. Some will hate this book. Others will be challenged by it and look again at their faith and actions in the light of the example of Jesus.

This is a good book for followers of Jesus who have become disillusioned with what Christianity has become in the United States. You may not agree with everything he says. I didn't. But you will be encouraged to know you are not crazy to think Christendom in the U.S. has gone off from truly following the example of Christ.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Stephen Mattson is a writer and activist whose work has been published in Relevant, Huffington Post, Sojourners, Red Letter Christians, and a variety of other venues. He graduated from Moody Bible Institute, served as a youth pastor, and now works at University of Northwestern - St. Paul. He and his family live near Saint Paul.

Herald Press, 216 pp.

I received a complimentary egally of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Monday, October 22, 2018

The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe by Dr. Steven Novella et al

In this era of “fake news,” misleading information and biased reporting, how can you know what to believe? Novella says there is a process that one can develop to evaluate claims to truth. Science is part of that process, as is logic and philosophy.

Novella helps readers understand how thinking skills are developed. He looks at tons of examples of misleading or just plain false information and how it is evaluated. I have to admit that I had been duped in a couple of the examples he gives, such as the truth about GMO. Perhaps the evidence given is only one sided. Perhaps unsubstantiated claims are presented as scientifically true. As he says in the fake news chapter, “The best solution for all of us is to apply a high degree of critical thinking and skepticism to any issue.” (383)

The only part of the book I didn't like dealt with religion. Novella does not believe in the supernatural so debunks anything related to Christianity.

He is not shy at naming shysters and people making claims that science has long ago proven untrue. One that comes to mind is turmeric. What about your aunt who is convinced turmeric is a wonder drug? Convincing someone of the truth is difficult when deep emotions are involved. He writes, “...facts [are] simply not enough to change people's minds.” (7)

Yes, this is a big book of some 500 pages. It took me all of the three weeks my library offers to read it. But I am glad I did. I now have a better understanding of how to determine the truth of claims. I recommend the book.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Dr. Steven Novella is a recognized science education. He is an academic clinical neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine. He authors the award-winning NeuroLogica blog and is senior editor of Science-Based Medicine. He is host and producer of the weekly science podcast, The SkepticsGuide to the Universe.
Cowriters Bob Novella, Cara Santa Maria, Jay Novella, and Evan Bernstein bring their unique personalities to the podcast and this book.

Grand Central Publishing, 512 pages.