Monday, February 18, 2019

The Way of the Warrior by Erwin Raphael McManus

I like the way the book started out. There is something wrong with the world. We long for world peace but the only way that will happen is when there is peace within. That peace will not come without a struggle. McManus says his book is about that journey.

He writes about being a warrior in that struggle and then goes on at length about the way of the warrior. Warriors can be competitive yet still have humility and be selfless. A warrior can be both great and a servant. The warrior owns his defeat. The warrior knows what feeds his soul.

I felt McManus lost the focus of inner peace. Don't believers have the peace of God that passes all understanding? (Phil. 4:7) Why didn't McManus write anything about the peace that comes from God? “Peace can come only when it is fought for,” McManus writes. (3) Yet Paul promised in Phil. 4:6-7 if we let our requests be made known to God by prayer with supplication and thanksgiving, the peace of God would guard our hearts. Paul also said in Rom. 5:1 if we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God. Paul also said in Rom. 8:6 to set the mind on the Spirit is peace. Why would we have to fight for peace when the Bible is clear on how to have it?

McManus certainly has a way with words. “The warrior knows their strength only when standing in their weakness.” (129) His writing is entertaining and captivating. He tells good stories. He makes grand statements: “The warrior trains their mind to know the good and beautiful and true.” (92) But he never gives us the nuts and bolts of how to do the grand things he writes about. There is no practical strategy given nor specific actions to take. How do we war for that inner peace?

There is also a bit of concern about the theology included in the book. McManus writes, “The future is not determined; it is created.” (93) There are many problems with a statement like that, the primary of which is God and prophecy. If the future is not determined, then what in the world is prophecy? It is God who “works all things” to the desired end, not we who create the future. He also writes, “The warrior becomes one with all things.” (157) “The warrior is one with all things.” (195) Connected to God, others, and things? Yes. But one with all things? No. I think those of an eastern religion would be more comfortable with McManus' statements.

A glaring theological omission by McManus shows up when he writes about some people thinking the universe is against them. (161) He says “the universe is for you … because God is for you.” (162) The novelist Paulo Coelho “is not wrong,” McManus writes, in describing the entire universe as conspiring “on our behalf.” (171) McManus never mentions Satan, demons, evil, spiritual warfare, etc.

Men might like this book. It would allow them to think of themselves as warriors with the single intention of winning the battle raging within. (197) But there are no specific nor practical actions suggested in the book so they would not have to face the reality of actually doing anything to win the battle. They would not have to think about accepting Jesus as Savior nor participating in spiritual warfare nor allowing the Holy Spirit to actually transform their character. (McManus does write of “becoming one with Christ” but does not mention sin, forgiveness, salvation, etc. (184))

My rating: 2/5 stars.

Erwin Raphael McManus is the founder of MOSAIC, a church movement started in the heart of Hollywood with campuses across Los Angeles, Orange County, and Mexico City, and a global community that spans around the world. He is the author of several previous books. He and his wife live in Los Angeles.

Waterbrook, 256 pages. This book releases February 26.

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

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Leaving Darkness by Greg Schaffer Blog Tour and Giveaway


About the Book


Title: Leaving Darkness  
Author: Greg Schaffer  
Genre: Christian Fiction  
Release date: October 31, 2018
  
Long-haul truck driver Lowell Ferguson is on the brink of suicide. He is haunted by the guilt of a horrible secret from his senior year of high school. Therapy and antidepressants aren’t able to lift him out of depression. At twenty-eight years old, he believes his life has dissolved into a meaningless annoyance. Only the strong bond with his lone friend—a Chihuahua named Rufus—keeps him from choosing death. But when Lowell learns Rufus may have cancer, he fears there will be no reason left to live if his beloved dog dies.
While awaiting the diagnosis, he comes across a flier for a Christian support group promising hope and freedom. A skeptic and an apatheist, he nonetheless reluctantly decides to join the group. Through this joining, he finds what he has been yearning for—a path toward leaving the darkness of depression. This first step provides Lowell the courage to do what he must to escape his guilt and finally confront his past.

Click here to purchase your copy.

My Review


This is a good story about the healing that can come about through small group ministries expressing the love of Jesus.

Schaffer has included some interesting issues in this novel. One is asking forgiveness for an incident when the offended person has long moved past the event. Lowell wanted to set right the past offense with which he struggled so much. His sister asks him if what Lowell wants to do is just for his own purposes, a selfish act that might bring back hurt for the other person. Something for each of us to think about.

Another issue concerns the choices we make in life. Lowell had anticipated a college football scholarship and a professional career but an injury prevented it. While Lowell struggled with depression and isolation, he ultimately began making healing choices. His close friend from high school set the accumulation of money and prestige as his goal in life. He made choices to that end and we see the ultimate fruit of his life too.

Schaffer's writing style is not sophisticated. The characters are regular people working through the daily struggles in their lives. There is just a hint of suspense and a touch of romance and the ending seemed a little to convenient to me. Nonetheless, the novel is a good one about healing that can happen when Jesus comes into a person's life and a group of people care for each other.

My rating: 4/5 stars. 

About the Author


Greg Schaffer participated in a small Christian-based group ministry in 2011 and became a facilitator with the ministry to help others find their direction toward a purposeful life. His firsthand experiences of lives transformed through such healing groups led him to write Leaving Darkness, hoping the tale of transformation through God’s grace may encourage those lost in their own darkness to reach out for help. The author of two previous novels, Greg lives in Franklin, Tennessee, with his wife and three rescue dogs.

Guest Post from Greg


As first a group participant and then a volunteer for Restore Small Groups for many years, I’ve seen firsthand the healing power of small group ministries. Many want to change but don’t know how. Leaving Darkness tells the fictional story of one lost in depression to the point of contemplating suicide who happens upon such a Christian-based ministry. Although he is reluctant at first, he gives the process a chance, and through it leaves his darkness, finds his faith, and becomes the person God meant for him to be. I was called to write this story in hope that someone with similar struggles may read Leaving Darkness and realize that there is a way out of the darkness when everything else has failed.

Blog Stops

Godly Book Reviews, February 16
Bukwurmzzz, February 18
Power of Words, February 19 (Spotlight)
Maureen’s Musings, February 21
Bibliophile Reviews, February 23
Janices book reviews, February 24
Carpe Diem, February 25
Texas Book-aholic, February 26
Just the Write Escape, February 28
Bigreadersite, March 1
Artistic Nobody, March 1 (Spotlight)

Giveaway


Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link the below to enter.

I received a complimentary digital copy 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.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Justice Mercy Humility by Rusty George

It is difficult to describe this book. I thought it was going to be a study on Micah 6:8. George does begin his book with that verse as the foundation. After that, however, it seems as if he kind of goes into free thought on the three topics. He tells many long stories from his own life, using them as illustrations. He quotes from many other authors, often at length.
 
George begins his book by saying many Christians feel they need to strive to get God's attention or feel that if they don't do enough God will not bless them. He assures us that everything God has told us to do can be summed up in Micah 6:8. I do find it ironic that at the end of each chapter, George includes a “To-Do List” of actions we should do. Just when I thought George was encouraging me to be free of to-do lists with respect to God, he provides me with several.

This book would best be read in a group. There are questions for discussion at the end of each chapter. The readers who would appreciate this book the most are those who like to be instructed through many stories rather than direct teaching. George's writing style is not one I like. I found myself often skimming through some of the lengthy stories, ready to get to the point. Others may like the rambling nature of George's writing style.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Rusty George is the lead pastor of Real Life Church in Valencia, California. Over his fifteen years at the church, it has grown to more than 7,000 people and two campuses. George speaks regularly at conferences across the country. He lives with his family in Santa Clarita, California. You can find out more at www.pastorrustygeorge.com.

Bethany House Publishers, 208 pages.

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

Friday, February 15, 2019

Never Let Go by Elizabeth Goddard

Goddard introduces us to a new sleuthing profession, the forensic genealogist. The professionals take genealogical research to a whole new level. In this case, the task is to locate a baby abducted from a hospital twenty years ago. It was interesting to read about some innovative ways of trying to locate someone when there are practically no clues.

I liked how Goddard portrayed the main characters. Willow, the forensic genealogist, and Austin, the ex-FBI agent Willow's grandfather had hired to help in the search, have a past. A previous romance between them had ended in hurt on both sides. We see before long that they never stopped having feelings for each other. We wonder if they will get past the hurt to a new relationship. Willow and Austin are Christians and I thought Goddard did an excellent representation of their faith, especially in suspenseful times.

I liked the setting of Grayback. Goddard had Willow contemplate the scenery at times and I appreciated being brought into her wonder at the mountains and valleys.

The plot is quite complex. The reason the baby was initially stolen is not revealed until near the end and I am not sure the reason actually worked. How Willow and Austin hunted for the abducted baby, now woman, seemed a mix of skill and luck. And the end, how it all worked out, did seem a little far fetched.

There is plenty of suspense in this novel as someone is determined to prevent Willow from pursuing the search. The characters are pretty well crafted and the setting is well done. The theme of relationship restoration is an added feature.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Elizabeth Goddard is the bestselling author of more than 30 books. Her books have won a Carol Award and have been finalists in the Daphne du Maurier Awards and the Carol Award. She is a seventh generation Texan. You can find out more at www.elizabethgoddard.comPhoto Credit: Emilie Hendryx

Revell, 368 pages.

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

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Fatal Homecoming by Stacey Weeks Blog Tour and Giveaway


About the Book


Title: Fatal Homecoming  
Author: Stacey Weeks  
Genre: Romantic Suspense  
Release date: February 5, 2019  
Publisher: Write Integrity Press

It was murder. She was sure. And that assurance could cost her life. 


 Undercover RCMP officer Rick Chandler poses as a detective in the small town of Chenaniah River. He is investigating the possibility of a corrupt police force when Jessie returns to bury her brother, and she refuses to believe evidence that point to her deceased brother’s involvement in drug trafficking. Soon, the same person that murdered her brother targets her. Can Rick help Jessie dodge bullets, escape fires, and exonerate her brother before the attacks escalate?   

 Jessie Berns has returned to her hometown to find answers about her brother’s suspicious death. With the help of an old friend, Detective Rick Chandler, they pursue a truth that someone is willing to do anything to keep hidden—even kill again. They uncover decades-old secrets that expose hidden sins and threaten the lifestyles of high-powered people in their small town. As they close in on the devious mastermind manipulating the community, it becomes frighteningly clear to Rick that Jessie is not the one calling the shots in her amateur investigation. She is the killer’s new target.

Click here to purchase your copy!


My Review:


I enjoyed this romantic suspense. And there was plenty of suspense. Jessie's life was in danger time after time. But that did not stop the amateur sleuth from pursuing the murderer of her brother. I liked how her character was portrayed – daring yet feminine. And Rick was a good counterpart. Romance blossomed but he kept his head as he did his best to keep her out of harm's way.

Weeks included an interesting issue in the plot. Family relationships played an important part. There had been an estrangement since Jessie's father had been accused of stealing a pension fund decades ago. Rick had issues too due to his previous undercover work and struggled with guilt feelings.

There is a good representation of Christian faith in the characters. The small Canadian town setting with its winter celebration is interesting. The mystery is a good one as I had fingered the wrong person altogether. The romance was subtle, something I appreciate when one of the characters is with the police. Overall, this is an entertaining romantic suspense.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author  


Stacey Weeks: My primary ministry in life crowds around my dining room table like a ravenous herd every night. My husband and children are both my greatest blessing and greatest ministry opportunity. Caring for them is a privilege bestowed upon me as wife and mother. I believe God simultaneously called Kevin and me into ministry. Kevin’s calling was clear – he is a pastor. I, on the other hand, took years to recognize the specific areas in which I was equipped and called serve. I believe that God has called me to meet Kevin’s needs, to meet the needs of our children, and to serve Him personally. 
  

Guest Post from Stacey Weeks


A Pile of Stones:  Often, the things I am studying in the bible make their way into my novels. At the time of writing Fatal Homecoming, I was reading the book of Joshua. In Joshua chapter four, Joshua describes the pile of stones the Israelites built as a memorial to God. Those stones were evidence of the Lord’s provision for them. The monument was a reminder to future generations that God had delivered his people. In Fatal Homecoming, Jessie needs to remember God’s provision. She wears a unique pendant passed down through the women of her family. Her necklace is comprised of river stones that represent the rocks from Joshua. They are to remind that God always meets His children in their moment of need. 

 Shortly after writing this necklace into Fatal Homecoming crisis struck a good friend of mine. As our church gathered around a suffering family to love and support them in their time of need, I decided to make a real pendant of stones to give to my friend to remind her and to remind me that God meets every need in His time and in His way. The pendant of stones can be strung on a necklace or keychain. It is more than words on paper and more than a pile of rocks strung on a string. It was a reference point. They mark where God gave me a story to share so that others may know and believe. If you are the lucky winner of this pendant of stones, I pray that every time you look at it, touch it, and feel the weight of it around your neck that you will remember to believe that your God is good. Always.   Stacey has also gifted all the blog readers with a short story to download. Enjoy! 

Click here to download.


Blog Stops

Carpe Diem, February 14
Blogging With Carol, February 15
Multifarious, February 16
Mary Hake, February 16
Bibliophile Reviews, February 17
Bukwurmzzz, February 17
Maureen’s Musings, February 18
Bibliophile Reviews, February 18
All-of-a-kind Mom, February 19
Texas Book-aholic, February 19
Ashley’s Bookshelf, February 20
Quiet Quilter, February 21
Inklings and Notions, February 21
Daysong Reflections, February 22
As He Leads is Joy, February 23
Simple Harvest Reads, February 23 (Guest post from Mindy Houng)
Spoken from the Heart, February 24
D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, February 24
EmpowerMoms, February 25
Bigreadersite , February 26

Giveaway


 
To celebrate her tour, Stacey is giving away a grand prize of a beautiful handmade necklace (May vary from picture)!!

Be sure to enter the giveaway for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.


 I received a complimentary digital copy 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, February 13, 2019

Whispers and Wildflowers by Sarah Beth Marr

If you feel like you are going through a spiritual dry spell or you feel like there is just something missing in your faith walk, this is a good book to work through. It is not a feel good, three minute a day devotional. It is an intensive thirty day journey of developing a deeper connection with God. Not that a mere thirty days will do it. This is a book to be read over and over as the journey is an ongoing one.

There are many essays that particularly moved me. One was about the heart, creating space for God and guarding that space against those things that deplete it. Another was about choosing life-giving pursuits rather than our digital devices. Yet another was about connecting with the Spirit, that it takes awareness and intention.

Each essay is a combination of encouragement, teaching, and correction. Marr helps us understand how we connect with God and what we can do to hear His quiet voice. She provides questions that are thought provoking and good for journaling. She also provides a written prayer asking God to help us in the areas we've just read about.

I am impressed with the depth of teaching in this book. It is one I'll read over and over as I pursue a deeper connection with God, making room for Him in the big and small moments of life.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Sarah Beth Marr danced as a professional ballerina for Ballet Austin and Mejia Ballet International. She writes at www.sarahbethmarr.com and speaks to MOPS groups and at women's events in North Texas. She lives in Dallas with her husband and their three sons. Photo Credit: Meshali Mitchell

Baker Books, 240 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley from the publisher my comments are an independent and honest review.

Monday, February 11, 2019

American Omens by Travis Thrasher

Thrasher imagines the U.S. twenty years in the future. Successive legislative acts have basically outlawed Christianity. Technology has advanced so that people have brain implants capable of receiving messages, showing photos, etc. Unknown to most, they can also be used for monitoring and manipulation. One corporate man is in control of nearly everything in the nation. FBI agents are manipulated to find and kill outspoken Christians. Yet there are a few faithful Christians who are determined to make public the nefarious technological control being perpetrated on the nation's citizens.

The narrative follows three people, a programmer innocently working for the evil technology company, an FBI agent enlisted to find and remove the man leading underground Christians, and a bookseller whose is forced to end his business because he made Christian material available. The main characters in these narratives do not intersect. While all three stories take place at the same time, I felt a little disconnect. I wish the paths of the main characters would have crossed. The character development was a little hap hazard, I thought. We do not learn the background of the FBI killer and the reason he does what he does until the second half of the book, for example.

Readers will have much to think about as Thrasher imagines the future. People have generally drifted away from Christianity. There is little biblical literacy. Thrasher has included good information on recent legislation regarding hate crimes, for example, and how that might be used to outlaw Christian speech. There is a little conversation about spiritual warfare but it is not an active element of the plot.

Technology futurists will like the ideas of digital drugs, floating serving trays, robot baristas, self driving cars, and more. There is a strong sense of the dangers of technology being used for evil intent, however. The brain implants can be programmed to influence an individual, a projection of the use of algorithms in social media today.

This novel concentrates on imagining a possible future for the U.S. but contains little suspense. It has nothing to say about Christianity worldwide. I found that odd since there are some areas south of the equator where Christianity is flourishing. The novel does remind readers to be faithful in living Christlike and be aware of the impact we have on others.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Travis Thrasher is a best-selling author who has written more than fifty books. He lives with his wife and their daughters in the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area.

Multnomah, 352 pages.

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

The 5 Minute Prayer Plan for Women by Vickie Phelps

Prayer is hard for many Christians. It is for me. I have a list and I go through it but after few days it seems like I am just repeating myself. Phelps has written this book to help people like me to think about my faith life and have a few topics to pray about. Her idea is to spend a minute on a Scripture she gives, two to three minutes thinking about the prayer prompts and then a couple of minutes prayerfully reading through a written prayer she has provided.

I like the thought provoking questions Phelps gives after the Scripture. Those questions are not prayer prompts but good questions. For example, on the day, Love Not The World, Phelps asks us how we keep from loving the world and the things of the world and where we draw the line. She then asks how we keep God first in our lives. After a few more questions, she gets to the prayer prompt, to ask God to direct us in making decisions about life. Then another thought provoking question about how we abide in Christ and then the written prayer. (Loc 324/1372)

I like the format. I think it would be best for Christians who journal as most of the questions are great prompts for journaling. I think the title may be a misnomer. I expected more specific prayer prompts rather than so many open ended kinds of questions. I also think one should spend more than five minutes on each topic. Some of the Scriptures given are in the KJV which may be a hindrance to younger readers.

I recommend this book to Christians who are looking for thought provoking questions through which to journal. There are some to pray about but it seems the emphasis of the questions in the book are more reflective, perfect for journaling.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Barbour Books, 192 pages.

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

Sunday, February 10, 2019

A Case of Bier by Mary Daheim

I have read most of the Alpine series by Daheim but this is my first in the bed and breakfast series. What a difference. The main characters in this series are less serious and much more random in their attempt to solve a murder mystery. The plot itself is a bit zany and quite complicated.

The action takes place in Banff where the Flynns and Joneses are vacationing. There is an odd family from Nebraska camping near the motel. They claim they are waiting for an elderly relative to die and then fulfill his wish, sending him down the river on a bier. There seems to be murder afoot and cousins Judith Flynn and Renie Jones tackle the issue while their husbands are off fishing.

I wish there had been more description of the location. Banff is beautiful, I think, but Judith and Renie rarely seemed to even notice their awesome surroundings. The personality of Renie seemed over dramatized to me, always wanting something to eat. The family camping near the motel was really strange but the individual characters seemed rather flat to me. They were odd characters but not with distinct and entertaining personalities.

I think this series might be appreciated most by elderly readers. The slow pace of the plot and the rambling plot development left me wanting tighter writing. I think I'll stick with the Alpine series.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Mary Dahein is a Seattle native with degrees in communication from the University of Washington. She lives in her hometown in a century-old house. She is the mother of three daughters and has three grandchildren. You can find out more at www.marydaheimauthor.com

William Morrow, 288 pages.

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

Grown Up Faith by Kevin Myers with Charlie Wetzel

This is a good book for someone with questions about Christianity or a new Christian with little Bible knowledge. The title refers more to responsible rather than mature Christianity. Myers is a story teller and this would be a good book for people who like to learn new concepts in the framework of story. He also uses movies as examples so this book might appeal to readers familiar with contemporary culture.

Myers answers questions by taking readers through an overview of the Bible. He includes how the mind requires biblical knowledge, the heart requires spiritual intimacy, and the will requires holy obedience for each topic covered. He has questions at the end of each chapter and encourages journaling.

There is an opportunity for the reader to accept Jesus as Savior in the latter part of the book so this would be a good book to give to those asking questions about Christian faith. Myers' writing is very conversational in style and nonthreatening.

You can find out a little more about the book at www.GrownUpFaith.com .

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Kevin Myers is the senior pastor of 12Stone Church, which he founded in 1987. It has grown to be one of the largest churches in the United States with eight campuses. He mentors pastors and church planters, speaks to churches and businesses nationally, and serves on the boards of Indiana Wesleyan University, Wesley Seminary, and the Wesleyan Investment Foundation. He is an avid motorcycle rider. He and his wife have four children and two grandchildren.
Charlie Wetzel became a full time writer in his mid-thirties after working various occupations. A graduate of the University of New Orleans with degrees in English, he has written ninety-five nonfiction books, as well as fiction and screenplays. He and his wife have three children and live in north Georgia.

Thomas Nelson, 240 pages.

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