Thursday, April 29, 2010

So Long Insecurity by Beth Moore

Beth Moore is passionate.  "[Her] life's passion is to see women like you [reader] really live and truly thrive."  (241)  This book is a result of her own journey to deal with insecurity.
She spends some time making sure the reader understands what insecurity is and that the reader is probably insecure (78%).  She reviews her own experiences (they'll make you laugh) and those of biblical characters.  She covers the causes of insecurities and gives many examples women who have shared their experiences.
It is not until the latter half of the book that Moore helps the reader deal with insecurities.  She advocates self talk against destructive thinking.  Even though we might feel insecure we are to make a deliberate choice to not act on that feeling.  She concentrates on the power to choose.  "The war will be won or lost in the battlefield of your mind."  (257)  
There are many practical ways to get the "secure woman" inside us out to the surface.  Included are two great prayers to use on a regular basis.  Women need to help each other.  Moore hopes to instill a case of "infectious security" the reader can pass on.
Moore admits hers is a "messy book."  For me, the book is long on the description of insecurity and short on the answer.  But the answer is there if you make it through half the book and her passion more than makes up for it.
Tyndale House Publishers, 350 pages.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Will the World End in 2012? by Raymond Hundley

Many predict that 2012 marks the end of the world.  Hundley reviews what has been written about the issue, beginning with the Mayan calendar.  He cites many Mayanists who say the Mayan calendar does not, in fact, predict the end of the world in 2012, but only a transition of some type.  He also looks at predictions of solar storms, the predictions of Nostradamus, concerns of the LHC, the "galactic alignment" scare, the possibility of a geomagnetic reversal, religious predictions, and various past predictions for the end of the word that have obviously failed.
He sums it all up with an evaluation chapter.  His conclusion?  Will the world end in 2012?  "...[I]t could, but it might not."  (133)
He does end the book with a presentation of the gospel and an admonition to always be ready.  We don't know if the end will be 2012 or tomorrow.  With the gospel presentation, this would make a suitable gift for someone caught up in the 2012 hype. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Distracted by Maggie Jackson

Jackson wonders if we are heading into the next dark ages. 
We are a distracted people.  We no longer focus on important issues for great lengths of time.  The speeches and sermons of generations ago were frequently hours long.  Now we fidget after twenty minutes. 
Even our reading habits have changed.  We now skim rather than digest the printed word.  "We read to glean and to get the neatly packaged answer, not to be changed."  (171) 
Jackson spends some time on the myth of multi-tasking.  There is really no such thing as the brain loses focus momentarily as it transitions from one task to another.  She also covers the impact of social web sites on our youth.  They are no longer interested in what our ancestors did but are obsessed with what their friends are doing this moment.
The result of our distracted life style is a lack of critical thinking.  We accept the political sound bite without investigating it.  Our discipline of attention has been so eroded we no longer think seriously and deeply about the issues before us.
Although Jackson's book ends weekly, it is certainly worth reading.  It is a call to return to the discipline of focused attention and deep thinking.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Bridegrooms by Allison Pittman

The four young Allenhouse sisters (the oldest was eight) had been abandoned by their mother and raised by their doctor father. They are now at the ages where thoughts turn to marriage.
Two baseball teams (the Spiders and the Bridegrooms) come to town for exhibition baseball and the excitement begins. One baseball player is so smitten by the youngest sister that he fails to catch a ball that hits a man in the crowd and knocks him out. The unconscious man is taken to the Allenhouse home for recovery and is devotedly cared for by another sister. The third sister has sent off advertisements to frontier newspapers, looking for a husband. The oldest sister is being courted by a faithful yet somewhat boring man.
The excitement increases as we find that the smitten baseball player has a secret, the unconscious man awakes, a frontier man shows up, and the oldest daughter is being chased by a romantic ball player.
Pittman has woven a great story that contrasts passion against faithful love. The reader’s guide at the back would make this a good book for reading groups. This is a delightful book.
This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

For ordering information:

Friday, April 16, 2010

After the Hangover by R. Emmett Tyrell JR.

What a disappointing book. The subtitle declares it contains “The Conservatives' Road to Recovery.” I expected insight or leadership as to the future of the Republican Party (there is an elephant on the cover).
What I got was Tyrrell’s recounting of the history of Conservatism and his special place in it. The reader is treated to 32 pages of William Buckley and Tyrrell’s friendship with “Bill.” The reader is reminded time and again about the books Tyrrell himself has written. There are some 200 pages of reminiscing and scores of critiques of books on Conservatism by people I’ve never heard of. Readers are treated to Tyrrell’s literary skill and vast knowledge but with little meat on the healing of the Republican Party.
Tyrrell’s bias shines through. Regarding the Bork nomination, “The Liberals snarled and clawed.” (5) He loves inflammatory statements; “...Liberals perceive ordinary Americans as primitive, bigoted, overweight, and incapable of earning a PhD.” (96) (This is interesting because on page 128 he admits, “For much of [the 1980s], the growing number of Americans who considered themselves forthrightly conservative also considered themselves somehow elevated above the mass of ordinary Americans.”) Sometimes Tyrrell is just crude. Speaking of Iraq, “We should have left the place in a heap.” (224)
Democrats can do no right and Republicans can do no wrong. While Tyrrell does admit Bush was “disappointing,” Bush’s claim that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, “…was clearly not a lie but a mistaken belief.” (99) Clinton and Obama, however, “practiced deception.” (10)
Tyrrell suggests, “Conservatism’s recovery will be through an archipelago of public policy think tanks… The whole process of recovery will be enhanced by the conservative’s New Media: talk radio, Fox News, and the Internet.” (167) Tyrrell finally gets down to the priorities of recovery on page 208 (in a 234 page book). So if you want to know what he suggests, you can easily read the few meaningful pages while you are browsing in a bookstore.
As to the future, Tyrrell does admit that, “few high-quality leaders are recognizable among conservative intellectuals and politicians.” (230, 231) The lack of leadership does not bother Tyrrell as he is sure some will come forward. But as Tyrrell himself says, “The truth is that only a troubled person would aspire to political leadership today.” (24) Tyrrell predicts the demise of Liberals and that shortly, “Even nudists will be more numerous…” than Liberals. (232) Fortunately, we’ll still have the “model” of “interacting intelligently” in Limbaugh, Hannity and Levin. (123)
I received this book for review from Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Forget Me Not by Vicki Hinze

Hinze has been writing novels in the romance and thriller areas for over twenty years. This is her first "Christian" novel.
Hinze is an accomplished writer and this book is no exception. The plot is very complex (too complex to my liking) and the major characters well conceived.
The niece of a murdered artist is trying to outrun the killers. Instead she is abducted, beaten, apparently treated chemically to forget her identity, then left to be discovered. The elderly man who finds her takes her to a crisis center where she strongly resembles the murdered woman who originated the plan for the center, now managed by the husband who stays clear of the clinic.
If that sounds like the beginning of a complicated plot, it is. There are about ten subplots of attempted murders, purposely foiled attempted murders to implicate someone else, a "compassionate" killer who does not want to murder a "relative," smuggling of something (we never find out what) that must come through a tunnel in a beach house rather than by boat, and on and on.
It is so complicated that I found myself shaking my head as yet another plot turn (or change) evolved. There is just too much to make this a tidy book. A novel is not true but it does have to be believable. This one was so complex, to me, it was not believable.
The novel's redeeming factor is that the Christian aspect was done well and is believable. Now, if Hinze can just get the plot for the next one more streamlined and believable, I'll be reading it.
This book was provided for review by the WaterBrookMultnomah Publishing Group.
For information on ordering this book:

Monday, April 5, 2010

Popes & Bankers by Jack Cashill

Only Jews and Christians, of all ancient people, said usury (lending at interest) was sinful. Yet from their heritage has risen the West’s extraordinary economy.
Cashill takes the reader on a historical review of the people and groups who have influenced finances: the Templars, fourteenth century Italians, Calvinists (the first major Christian movement to accept usury as normative), the Rothschild family, Benjamin Franklin, J. P. Morgan, Charles Ponzi and more.
Cashill concentrates on the U. S. It had inherited the Christian distaste for usury but that was set against the American dream and the bent to prodigality. There is a review of the history of the U. S. banks and lending agencies, including the origin of home loan, installment buying, the secret meeting that spawned the Federal Reserve, the private meeting in 1927 of international bankers that may have led to the crash of 1929, Roosevelt and the Emergency Banking Act (seizure of privately held gold) and Glass-Steagull Act (separating banks into investing or deposit) of 1933.
Cashill moves through the creation of the Federal National Mortgage Association in 1938, the introduction of the first credit card (1946/1947, Flatbush National Bank of Brooklyn), and the rise of the divorce rate after the introduction of the no fault law (the first state, CA, in 1970.
In 1979, Paul Volcker, the newly appointed chairman of the Federal Reserve, announced that the Fed would fix the money supply and allow interest rates to float. Within three years nearly 25% of the nation’s thrifts had collapsed.
Cashill covers the creation of the collateralized mortgage obligation by First Boston in 1983. A Wall Street veteran said “these products were ‘too complex to be understood by those who trade them.’” (P. 179) They were bonds that could be priced and traded on the open market. Salomon later originated credit default swaps (types of insurance policies) to minimize the investor’s risk.
With the same clarity and description of essential individuals, Cashill takes us up through the recent lending crisis.
Cashill ends his book with comments from Dave Ramsey - a reminder that character counts. There is a direct relationship between the character of the individual and the success of the economy.

Cashill's book is very informative and easy to read. His inclusion of stories of the people involved helps the history come alive.
This book was provided for review by Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Life After Death The Evidence by Dinesh D'Souza

D'Sousa takes on atheists and materialists and their belief in no afterlife. He does this on their turf, giving up all claims to biblical truth and revelation. He wants "to engage [those who believe in] atheism and reductive materialism on their own terms, and to beat them at their own game." His goal is to demonstrate the truth of life after death exclusively on the basis of reason alone.
He presents three proofs. First he reviews recent neuroscience discoveries regarding the brain and the mind and the meaning of each. He then works through the arguments of philosophers such as Hegel, Kant and Schopenhauer. His third argument is a presupposional one, using the existence of moral values (the feeling of the way things "ought" to be) as a basis. (The supposition of dark matter and energy is an example of a presuppositional argument.)
D'Sousa ends with the practical considerations of believing in an afterlife (and not believing). What approach would make for a better situation for mankind? How do beliefs in an afterlife, or lack of it, impact society?
D'Sousa concludes, "Even if we are unsure whether there is life after death, reason suggests that we should act as if there is." (P. 212) "...[T]here is strong evidence that belief in life after death makes your life better and also makes you a better person..." (P. 216)

A New Kind of Christianity by Brian McLaren

Whenever I read a book by McLaren I feel like there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that he challenges me. He makes me think about my faith, what I believe and why I believe it. The bad news is that how he presents his case and the conclusions he comes to just irritate me to no end.
McLaren observed that Christianity was in trouble. He sensed that Christianity was pregnant and something was trying to be born. He frames his look at the phenomenon with ten questions.
He speaks to the narrative of the Bible and attempts to strip away the undesirable Greek/Roman influence. As he reviews the first two books of the Bible it was “patently obvious” to him that the stories were not to be taken literally yet it was “powerfully clear” to him that “these nonliteral stories are still to be taken seriously and mined for their rich meaning…”
“Our quest for a new kind of Christianity requires a new, more mature and responsible approach to the Bible.” (P. 76)
McLaren takes an evolutionary approach to God revealing Himself. The Old Testament contains less mature views of God. As mankind progressed, so did God’s revelation of Himself from a violent, tribal God to a Christlike God.
McLaren calls for Christians to promote a “kingdom…that transcends and includes all religions.” (P. 216). This kingdom, he says, is “the kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed.” (P. 216)
As an evangelical Christian, that really irritates me. McLaren has ignored the holiness of God, ignored the teachings of Jesus on hades, has discounted the sovereignty of God and has emphasized an all inclusive and nonjudgmental “love” of God.
He also irritates me with his footnotes. When he quotes a statistic and lists a footnote, I expect a source. What I found more times than not were additional comments and no source.
At one point McLaren argues for a new look at sexual orientation, arguing that Christians are not doing well in marriage, concluding “divorce rates are startlingly high for Christians as well.” (P. 187) I went to the blog he cited and read the entry. It says frequent church attending Christians have a divorce rate of 32% while all nonChristians are at 48%. The blogger says, “The fact is that church attendance is the single largest factor in reducing divorce rates.” (, accessed 4/03/2010) That’s interesting…it seems church going Christians are doing much better at marriage than McLaren would like us to believe.
So that’s the bad news. McLaren’s conclusions are certainly outside the frame of traditional Christianity. The way he proves his case seems to me to be full of holes and includes faulty arguments and conclusions.
The good news? McLaren does have some good points regarding Christians not living up to Christlikeness as we should. He desires that our faith impact our lives. We should be living the gospel.
McLaren makes me think about what I believe and why I believe it. I sure do not believe what he does.