Sunday, December 30, 2012

Vanished by Irene Hannon

It was a dark and stormy night and reporter Moira Harrison was out way too late, her interview having taken longer than she planned. On an unfamiliar road, she is shocked to barely see a woman on the rain soaked road ahead of her. Trying to avoid the woman, Moira ends up against a tree. Dazed, she is surprised by a man in a hooded jacket, who opens the door, comforts her, and promises to call 911.
She realizes she must have blacked out as she groggily finds it is an hour later. There is no ambulance, no hooded man, and no body of the struck woman anywhere. She has vanished.
Moira pursues the mystery as she cannot forget the look of the terrified woman on the road. When the police discover nothing, she turns to a private investigating company. What they begin to discover is chilling.

Hannon has created another great novel of suspense. There was just enough of the mystery revealed from time to time to keep me reading. And as is the usual case with Hannon's novels, the suspense at the end kept me turning pages (well, digitally, so to speak).
The lead characters are Christians and that is well done. There is just enough romance, to keep that aspect of the novel interesting too.
The only thing I didn't like about the novel was that at the very end, Moira made some mistakes that I could see coming and could have avoided.

All in all, a very good first book in a new series.

Irene Hannon is a best-selling, award winning author of more than forty contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels. She has twice won the RITA award as well as too many other awards to list. Irene holds a B.A. in psychology and an M.A. in journalism. She is a trained vocalist and has sung the leading role in a number of community theater productions and is a soloist at her church. She and her family live in Missouri. You can find out more about her at

Revell, 336 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cold-Case Christianity by Jim Wallace

Wallace is a cold case homicide investigator. He was a skeptic. He thought the supernatural was impossible.
He decided to investigate the evidence for Christianity using his skills as a detective.
He introduces us to the tools and techniques he used to crack unsolved murders. He explains how he used the same analytical thinking on the claims of Jesus.
Wallace was thirty five when he began his journey, reading the gospelsfor the first time. He used his training in Forensic Statement Analysis and concluded them to be actual eyewitness accounts. As a cold case investigator, he had been trained in working with facts from the distant past.
As he gives us the principles detectives must learn, he illustrates each principle by using examples from his own cases to illustrate the techniques. He writes about presuppositions, abductive reasoning, circumstantial evidence, trusting eyewitnesses, separating artifacts from evidence, establishing chain of evidence, and more.
In the second part of the book he applies the investigative techniques to the claims of Christianity.

I was impressed with this book on several levels. I love to read mysteries and I was fascinated with the way Wallace wrote this book. He'd start a chapter with a case, perhaps how an eyewitness was essential. Then he would describe the importance of that aspect of the investigation. That is eventually applied to the claims of Christianity.
An insight that really impressed me was the idea of making a decision while there are still unanswered questions, still pieces of the puzzle missing. In many cases, there is enough evidence for a decision even though the evidence is not absolutely complete. Wallace applies that concept to Christianity. The evidence does not have to be complete, just reasonable, for one to make a reasonable conclusion.
His collection of circumstantial evidence for a created universe is impressive.
His insight into how eyewitnesses may tell different stories depending on their vantage point relates well to the differences in the gospels.

If you are skeptic of Jesus being who he said he claimed to be, you need to read this book. You can become a Christian because of the evidence, not in spite of it.
If you are a believer, this book will build your faith and help you explain your faith to others in a more informed way.

I have read many books on apologetics and this one is the most interesting I've seen. The combination of investigative techniques and evaluating the evidence is enlightening. Certainly skeptics should not ask perfect evidence when a jury makes a life and death decision on reasonable but not perfect evidence.

Great work Wallace. I highly recommend this book.

Find more about Wallace and his ministry:

Jim Wallace is a cold case homicide detective, a missions leader, and a church planter. As a result of his work he has been featured on many television programs. An outspoken atheist for many years, he is now an apologist for Christianity with a master's degree in theology. He and his wife have four children and live in southern California.

David C Cook, 288 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Operation Screwtape by Andrew Farley

Finally! A book worthy of Screwtape in the title!
In the tradition of C. S. Lewis, Farley has crafted a book worthy of being called the sequel to The Screwtape Letters.
This novel is a manual for training future deceivers from the realm below. This fictional manual contains everything a demon needs to know to keep Christians from living the life God has intended for them. Just like The Screwtape Letters, this book has a wealth of information for Christians regarding spiritual growth and how we are kept from growing.
(For those unfamiliar with Lewis' work, this book is written from a demon's viewpoint, so the “Enemy” is Jesus or God.)
Jesus said the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy and that is the outline for this manual.
I know of no other way to convey the excellence of this book than quoting some passages.

So despite the fact that he who is in them is greater than all of us combined, we still have one overwhelming advantage against the obtuse half-wits: many simply do not know what it means to possess the Life. They are not acquainted with the power and resources in them. Our best strategy is to occlude the Life from them, so their minds do not perceive his presence. This is effectively accomplished by means of distraction.” (90-91)

Many of these stupid saints prefer to determine their spiritual condition through the lens of their own natural senses, lending more authority to them than to the Book itself, whenever the two appear to contradict.” (99)

Their crucifixion with the One must go undetected. If many of them realize it as a literal and actual death and rebirth at the core of their being, it would be devastating to our cause.” (109)

Grace. We shudder at the dreadful word scattered throughout the Book. A proper understanding of grace will render any patient nearly impervious to even our finest strategies.” (128)

There is nothing more discouraging to us than a patient who serves the Enemy joyfully, from the heart, free of guilt or any sense of obligation.” (149)

This is a great book! It is cleverly written and contains a wealth of insight into the Christian life and how we are kept from being who God wants us to be. Read it and discuss it with your friends.
Beware, Farley steps on some toes. But those toes need to be stepped on as they are on the feet of people who are doing exactly what the demons suggest.

Go to to watch a video and read an excerpt from the book.

Andrew Farley is lead pastor of Ecclesia, an evangelical church on the high plains of West Texas. He is the best-selling author of several books. He serves as faculty advisor for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and frequently speaks at churches and university groups around the United States and Canada. He is also a professor of applied linguistics at Texas Tech University in West Texas, where he lives with his wife and their son. Visit for more information and free resources.

Baker Publishing Group, 192 pages. Publisher's product page.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

20,000 Days and Counting by Robert D. Smith

Midway through his fifty fourth year, Smith realized he had been alive for nearly 20,000 days. He decided to take forty eight hours and put himself through a crash course to plan his next 20,000 days. He includes in this book the thoughts and actions he pledged to implement daily for the rest of his life in order to live with intense purpose, constant joy, and lasting influence.
There is really not much to this book. Smith says this book can be read in an hour. It can. (The last seven pages of the galley I read were endorsements.) He does share his own thoughts and maybe it worked for him. But this book is greatly lacking in the practical means to getting to that life of intense purpose. He does not include any techniques for goal setting, time management, or anything like that. His concept is pretty much that you just decide to live your life with purpose and it will somehow happen.

If this is the first book you will read on finding your purpose in life, etc., you may find inspiration in this book. If you have read other books on goal setting or productivity, you will probably not find anything new or helpful in this one. I have read lots of self help books and did not find this one to be particularly helpful.

Robert D. Smith has overseen the career of Andy Andrews for more than three decades. He has also served as a private consultant to numerous best-selling authors, speakers, entertainers, and organizations, educating them on the methods he has employed in his career.

You can find out more about him and calculate how many days you have been alive at

Thomas Nelson Publishers, 144 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Torn by Justin Lee

Justin writes that the Christian church has a reputation, not only for opposing gay marriage, but for hostility to gay people. It has become a Gay – vs. - Christian culture war.
The issues are complex, he notes. “Underlying all of them, however, is the essential question of how we Christians, having traditionally condemned homosexuality, should respond to a world that is increasingly accepting of it.” (10)
Justin tells his own story of the last fifteen years. He was a committed Christian, finding at high school age that he was attracted to guys, not girls. He shares his own struggles, investigates theories as to why people are gay, and reports on the failure of ex-gay ministries.
At the insistence of others, he went to a gay bar during his college years. He didn't like it. “I was just a sheltered Southern Baptist boy who wanted to serve God and couldn't help being attracted to other guys.” (164)
He takes the reader through the relevant passages in the Bible. From the gospels, Justin concludes, “Over and over, Jesus provides examples of the spirit of the law superseding the letter of the law.” (202) “The more I studied the Bible,” he writes, “the more I found myself coming to the conclusion that my church had gotten this issue wrong. ...I could no longer justify the condemning a loving, committed, Christ-centered relationship based solely on gender.” (206) He adds, “We Christians are failing to show grace to the gay community the way Jesus would.” (210)
Justin has established a ministry, The Gay Christian Network, aimed at bridge building between gays and Christians and providing a safe place for Christian gays.
In the last chapter he identifies a way forward, listing seven things he believes Christians must focus on.

This is a crucial topic for Christians to be considering at this time. Other books I have read on the future of Christianity indicate this is a watershed issue.
Whether you agree with Justin's conclusions or not, this is an excellent book to read to begin to understand Christian gays. Justin has given a very personal account of his experiences and his thoughts.
This issue is not going to go away. I do recommend this book, not because I think Justin has necessarily gotten it right, but because Christians need to compassionately listen to stories like Justin's.

Justin Lee is the founder and executive director of The Gay Christian Network, a nonprofit, interdenominational organization working to increase dialog between gays and Christians and support people on both sides wrestling with related issues. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Jericho Books, 259 pages.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Great Evangelical Recession by John Dickerson

What if you had been warned about the recent recession? There were people who warned it was coming, but the right people were not listening.
Dickerson believes the American church is facing a great recession. All the signs are there, he says. The church as we know it will face great upheaval. Ministry leaders can prepare now to survive and thrive in a changing future.
Dickerson has taken research from many experts. He has used the information to describe what is changing, why it is changing, and how to prepare for it.

In the first part of the book he identifies the six trends of decline.
Inflated: the church isn't as large as we have been told.
Bankrupt: donations are declining, the giving generation is dying.
Hated: cultural change is accelerating, we are in a postChristian age.
Dividing: the church is dividing over issues, reacting to the religious right.
Bleeding: we are losing the next generation, over half the kids born into the church are leaving.
Sputtering: the engine of discipleship making is not keeping pace with population growth.

In the second part, Dickerson casts a vision, giving six solutions for recovery.
Re-valuing: Holy Spirit.
Solvent: ministry funding.
Good: proactive ambassadors.
Uniting: evangelical unity.
Healing: discipleship.
Re-igniting: personal evangelism.

Dickerson says his ministry is only a few years old and they are still learning how to apply these principles. They have made it their top priority, however, to equip God's people for individual evangelism.
He reminds us that the stakes are eternal in this spiritual struggle of unseen forces of good and evil. He also reminds us that the church started with 120 individuals empowered by the Holy Spirit.

I have to admit, I was surprised, might I say shocked, in reading this book. I had no idea of the real size of the church in America. I had no idea of the decline. I had no idea people of the "greatest" generation are the real money givers in the church and they are dying off. Dickerson has certainly opened my eyes to the state of the church in the U.S.
I would encourage every ministry leader to read this book. Go through it in your staff meetings. Give it to your lay leaders. Dickerson may not have all the answers, but he will certainly get you on the right road.

John S. Dickerson is a nationally awarded journalist and third generation senior pastor. He serves at Cornerstone, an Evangelical Free Church in Prescott, AZ. Learn more at

Baker Books, 256 pages. Publisher product page. 

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dirty God by Johnnie Moore

Johnnie writes, “I believe we are on the cusp of a revolution that will change the world and this revolution will be a grace revolution.” That's why he wrote this book.

The first part of this book is about God's grace. From the story of Elijah, Johhnie shows God cares about his people and wants to know them. Jesus touching lepers shows that God does not keep his distance from a messy world.
It was grace that brought Jesus to earth. It was grace that Jesus lived among the lowly, recruiting working class people to change history.
The second part of the book is about giving grace. Christians have the responsibility and privilege to share this grace. We are to live as people of grace. Grace is not to be cheapened. He shows how desperately the world needs grace.

Johnnie asks, What if Christians began to live a lifestyle of grace as wildly as Jesus did? Giving grace will cost you, he says, but the stakes are high.

Johnnie has high hopes for a grace movement among Christians. I hope this book will inspire readers to live grace as wildly as Jesus did.
Johnnie includes a combination of Bible illustrations and stories from his own adventures. His own stories detracted from the overall message of the book, I felt.

Johnnie Moore is an author, advisor, pastor, professor, and vice president of Liberty University. His missionary and humanitarian adventures have taken him to more than twenty nations. He and his wife live in Virginia. See more at,, and

Thomas Nelson, 224 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

It Really IS a Wonderful Life by Linda Rondeau

If you want a Christmas novel that will leave you feeling warm inside, this one is a great choice.
Dorie's husband was killed in Afghanistan a year ago. Now she has moved to upper New York to be near her parents. She needs their support to raise her children. She also needs a job and circulating with her parents' senior citizen friends isn't exactly accomplishing it. She decides to take a role in the small town's production of It's a Wonderful Life. Perhaps she'll make some more contacts within the community.
Jamey is also in the play. His dream is to make it big on Broadway but now he is taking over his father's business and taking care of the elderly man.
Dr. Gabe is also in the play and he has eyes for Dorie. But is he the right man for her?

This is a well done romance. There are all kinds of conflicts that keep the right romance from happening. The conflicts are not over done, however. They fit right into the personalities of the people involved.
There is a fine parallel of the plot to the play being put on in the small town. Jamey wants to get out of town and has the opportunity to do so when he gets a call from his agent. He ultimately has to make the decision of where his most meaningful future lies.
I love Dorie's kids! Josh is a wonderful six year old, wise beyond his years.
The characters are Christians and their faith plays out well in the plot.

Grab a cup of tea and settle down with this heartwarming novel.

Linda Wood Rondeau is a native of Central New York. She moved to Northern New York where she met her husband and managed a career in human services before tackling professional writing. She and her husband now live in Florida. She is the mother of three and the grandmother of nine.

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, 206 pages.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Hell A Final Word by Edward Fudge

Much has been written about hell lately. Some hold to the historical Christian view while others reject the existence of hell altogether.
Thirty years ago, Fudge wrote the 500 page scholarly book, The Fire That Consumes. In it he examined every passage in the Old and New Testaments that was on the topic of punishment. He had done extensive biblical study and found it required a change of mind he had not planned on. Christianity Today called that book the “standard reference” on the topic of hell.
In this book, Fudge now makes his research scholars have had accessible to all readers. It's his “final word” as he'll not write another book on the subject.
Fudge is clear. Hell is real. Hell is bad. Hell is punishment. Hell is separation from God. Hell is eternal.
But Fudge also found some surprises in his study. “Scripture nowhere suggests that God is an eternal tormentor.” (34) God's judgment is severe and fair. “Those who go to hell will suffer conscious pain exactly measured by a perfect, holy, divine justice.” (35) The ultimate punishment is that they will cease to be. “Scripture nowhere says that any human being will be tormented forever.” (140)
He argues his case using Bible passages. For example, Matthew 25:46 speaks of “eternal punishment.” he relates that to 2 Thessalonians 1:9, “eternal destruction,” and argues that it is the results, not the action itself that is eternal.

Fudge presents a comprehensive argument for the ultimate extinction of the wicked rather than eternal torment. Anyone who has interest in the topic of hell will find much in this book for discussion and thought.

The story behind this book has been made into a film. Find out more at

Edward Fudge is a Bible teacher, preacher, and practicing attorney living in Houston, Texas. He has conducted retreats and special Bible studies for churches of many denominations in the U.S., Canada, and New Zealand. He is the author of several books. He and his wife have two grown children. Find out more at

Leafwood Publishers, 176 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Thousand Sleepless Nights by Michael King

In this well written novel, we are taken into the lives of Nena and Jim. Nena inherited a horse farm in northern Virginia and she has spent her life trying to keep it from going bankrupt. It has been an all consuming job – even to the neglect of her children.
Now, as an older adult, the children gone far away, Nena discovers she has cancer. The cancer is serious. As she and Jim face the future, Jim's thoughts go back to their meeting and how he came to marry her.
Nena asks Jim to have their children come to see her before it is too late. It is not an easy task as there are antagonistic feelings toward their mother, the mother who abandoned their care for a more important farm.

King has managed to write a touching and thought provoking novel. It is a novel of memory, of forgiveness, and of restoration. King has cleverly paralleled the children's lives to that of their mother. Each of them must deal with issues they are facing.
I was amazed at how a novel about a woman dying of cancer could be so uplifting, so positive. It gives the reader a real sense of God working through all circumstances, even the death of a parent.
This is a novel of hope, even in the midst of a hopeless situation.
This is a novel of love, even when there has been hurt and separation.
It is a novel of God's forgiveness, despite Nena's reluctance to admit she needs it.
It is a novel of God's grace and restoration, even when the recipients are hesitant to participate.

Carve out a few hours of time because you will not want to put this novel down. And make sure you have some tissues near by. Enjoy.

Michael King was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2008. He was thirty-five and married with three young daughters. Many of his memories and the emotional blueprint formed by them have been worked into this story. “Cancer changes you,” he writes. He sees his life differently, he sees others differently, God differently, and his work differently. (x) He wrote this story hoping that readers would see something of themselves, others, the world, and God. He hopes readers find encouragement, inspiration, hope and courage where it is needed most.

Well done.

Realms (an imprint of Charisma House Book Group), 292 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg

Margaret is wonderstruck by her Creator. As she searched the night sky for the Northern Lights, it came to her that this was the posture we were to take in our spiritual journey. We are to live in holy expectation that God will meet us in beautiful, mysterious ways. We are to stay awake with eyes wide open.
Yet we slumber. Instead of holy awe we have unholy indifference. “What are the wonders in your own life that you fail to marvel or even sleep straight through?” Margaret asks. “How often do you pass by God's presence and handiwork unaware?”
She shares stories to show how you can join God in his miraculous work in others, making dry bones come alive, breathing restoration.
Margaret hopes that by reading this book, “you will rediscover, or possibly discover for the first time, the wonders of God stirring in your own heart.”
She suggests a companion Bible study, partnering with another, to begin sensing God's presence in places and experiences you never expected.
Margaret ends her book with suggested activities for thirty days of discovering wonder.

I think those last thirty suggestions are the strength of this book. I was not very impressed with Feinberg's story telling. I found no exceptionally well crafted sentences that captured my attention. However, the concept, being awake to the wonders of God, is compelling. The last section, with the thirty exercises to be awake to wonder of God is what makes this book worthwhile.

Margaret Feinberg is a popular bible teacher and speaker at churches and conferences. She has written books and Bible studies receiving critical acclaim and national media coverage. She currently lives with her husband and their superpup in Morrison, Colorado.

Worthy Publishing, 224 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job by Hugh Ross

Ross is a Christian astronomer who doesn't want to avoid issues of origins. He tackles them head on.
What is needed is a strategy of engagement,” he writes. “Christians who take the Bible as a trustworthy revelation from God need to study science and engage with scientists at the highest academic and research levels.” (12) He encourages Christians to “demonstrate how a creation model provides a more productive stimulus for ongoing research than does naturalism.” (12)
In this book, Ross turns to Job, probably the oldest book in the Bible. “Job helps us resolve nearly all the Genesis creation controversies,” he writes. (13)
That is a tall order and I am not sure he fulfills it.
Ross addresses several issues as he goes through Job and here are a few.
One of the most divisive issues among creationists is whether there was animal death prior to Adam and Eve's sin. Ross suggests there was carnivorous activity, based on Job, before Adam's sin.
Ross challenges naturalistic evolutionary models. He argues that soulish animals, with their innate capacities to serve and please humans, are of supernatural design rather than natural process. He defends the uniqueness of humans among animals, citing scientific studies.

Ross is an “old earth” creationist. Of papers delivered in 2009 (“year of Darwin”), Ross notes, “They reported, for example, that the scientific case for a long history of life on Earth is now beyond doubt, and so is the historical record of life's progression from simple, small-bodied life-forms to more complex, larger-bodied life forms. How many people realize, however, that this scenario exactly parallels what the Bible teaches? The crucial difference … The Bible credits God's creative involvement, not just natural processes, for the big changes scientists observe in the record of Earth's life.” (124)

As with prophecy, I am disturbed when the Bible is seen to reveal a concept, after that concept has happened (prophecy) or been discovered (science). I see Ross doing that. An example is dark matter. Ross looks at Job 38:19-20. “God treats darkness as if it is something that resides somewhere in the universe.” (61) Ross goes on to write of dark stuff, comprising, scientists say, some 99.73 percent of the universe. Ross finds dark matter referenced in the Bible after its discovery. I would rather see a Christian astronomer predict what will yet be discovered, based on a biblical model.

Ross has certainly provided material for discussion. He describes himself as a “public advocate for fact based faith.” (168) In this era when people of faith are forced to address scientific discovery, Ross's work is very valuable.

Hugh Ross (PhD, University of Toronto) is founder and president of Reasons To Believwe ( He is the author of many books. As an astronomer, Ross has addressed students and faculty on over 300 campuses in the United States and abroad on a variety of science-faith topics. He presents powerful evidence for a purpose filled universe.

Baker Books, 238 pages.

Monday, December 17, 2012

From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart by Chris Haw

We have recently seen a number of people go from Protestantism to the Catholic Church. I have wanted to understand this change so took the opportunity to read this book.
Chris was baptized into the Catholic Church as an infant, raised by a Catholic mother and Protestant father. Just before his confirmation at age 14, he heard of the Willow Creek youth program and started attending there.
This experience altered his life trajectory, he writes. He wanted to understand the world and the Gospel and how they related to each other. He pursued sociology and Christian theology at Eastern. He went on a study program to Belize and that experience convinced him he needed to face the destructive elements and economy of the U.S. During the Iraq war he joined the peace movement of the Quakers.
During his senior year at Eastern he heard a Catholic priest from Camden and Chris was inspired to move there. He and his wife moved into an area that looked like a war zone and formed an intentional Christian community. He began to attend the local Catholic church.

That was the first part of the book, the action. He writes about his thoughts in the second part of the book, contemplation.

He struggled with the ideas of being nondenominational, tradition, and ritual. This section helped me understand how he made the transition from Protestant thinking to Catholic.

Here is one example of his thinking process in giving up sola scriptura:
He shares how he came to believe that the Bible is a Church product, “or more particularly, the product of certain churches.” (148) “The Jesus handed down to us is an interpreted Jesus. … The gospels give us a Jesus interpreted and filtered by several different writers and communities, all of whom served the liturgical and story-telling needs of the Church.” (148) He came to see that “a high view of the Bible implies a high view of the Church. This realization slowly dissolved my held belief in sola scriptura. … [W]e cannot believe in scripture alone; it is simply impossible to believe only in scripture. For scripture is tradition. It is one of the traditions of the Church.” (148)
He also writes of entering into the Church just as the pedophile scandal was being made public and how he worked through it. He writes about escaping the lure of consumer Christianity, about rituals becoming more meaningful, and much, much more.

Chris is not out to convince anyone to become Catholic. In fact, in his conclusion he says another person could write the same kind of book in traveling from Catholicism to Protestantism.
And this is not a theological argument. This is Chris' very personal account of his own journey. It may not explain why the next person made a similar journey. If you are at all interested in how the journey might take place, this is a good place to begin.

Chris Shaw is a husband, father, carpenter, potter, adjunct professor at Cabrini College, and founder of Camden House, an intentional community. He earned his double bachelor's degree in theology and sociology from Eastern University and his mater's degree in theology and religious studies from Villanova.

Ave Maria Press, 236 pages.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Silent Night by Colleen Coble

Christmas is that time of the year when I want to read a heartwarming story. But it is also a busy time of the year so a novella is great.
And Silent Night is a perfect choice.
We are back on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, in Rock Harbor. Bree and Kade are getting their lighthouse home ready for holiday guests. But Lauri, the younger sister Kade has been watching over since their parents died, shows up two weeks early. Has she quit school?
Something strange is going on with Lauri. She claims she was supposed to meet a fellow she knows who was going to parachute on to a near by frozen lake. Except that he was found dead, having landed in trees.
To make matters worse, Bree is not feeling well. She is so tired all of the time.

This was a rewarding read. It's short. You can read it in an evening.
It is part of the Rock Harbor series. I have not read the series yet I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Coble gives enough back information that it is easy to pick right up in the story line.

Only available as an ebook, order it here.

I received a complimentary egalley of this novella from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

101 Moments of Prayer by Elizabeth Sherrill

This slim volume is a collection of devotions. A few are from the Bible and are excellent.
For example, there is a meditation entitled Obstacles Strengthen Faith. The lesson is about Moses. “Whatever our 'slavery' is, we walk with Moses the uncharted road away from the chains of the past.” There are several points made as to the reason we experience false starts and dead ends.
To Enlarge Our Vision. Moses had a dream but it was too small. God had to bring him to the wilderness to learn that God's plan for Moses was much larger.
To Give Us Specific Training. God knew Moses would need the skills of a desert sheepherder. Those years in the desert were ones of preparation for what lay ahead.
To Reveal Himself. God revealed Himself and gave Moses his true work.
To Temper Our Faith. Moses led the people, but not in a straight line to their destination. A faith that encounters no obstacles crumbles with the first opposition.
To Give Us Another Chance. Even at the door of the Promised Land, the people panicked and ended up with forty more years of training. “The qualities nurtured and strengthened on desert marches will prove us fit for life in His kingdom.”
The meditation ends with the following prayer:
Lord, let me learn the lessons of the wilderness through which You are leading me this that I will be prepared to meet the future!

There are others from the Bible. Elisha suggests our own need for a spiritual companion who travels the road ahead of us. Jonah reminds us that God brings back those who stray.
Many of the devotions are not from the Bible. The gift of a prism causes awe. Lessons from interviews with noted people. Sherrill draws from many of her own experiences, such as how they came to write for Guideposts, and scenes and experiences from their travels. Many of the devotions are from stories of other people's lives.

I am not sure I understand the organization of the meditations. The first ones gave me the impression the readings would roughly go through the books of the Bible. But then began devotions from life. Some are quite moving while others are rather routine. Then, about half way through are Advent devotions. Then Easter week devotions from the gospels follow, and, after a few others, including another Christmas one, Pentecost meditations. Then there is a devotion for Lent. After several routine devotions, one for St. Patrick's Day. Then one about a January afternoon.

I think the strength of this book would be for one who is asked to give a devotion to a group and needs a resource. One of these meditations could be chosen to read. Too bad there is not some kind of index included.
Otherwise, I am not so enthusiastic about this book. A few of the devotions are inspiring but I found most to be “nice” stories.
For me, the book did not live up to its title of inspiring me to listen to God.

Link to buy the book:

Elizabeth Sherrill has published some 1,500 articles and authored more than thirty-four books – many written with her husband John. For more than fifty years, Elizabeth has been a writer and editor for Guideposts magazine and a contributor to Daily Guideposts. The Sherrills have three children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild. They are occasionally home in a small town in Massachusetts.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from The LitFuse Publicity Group for the purpose of this review.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Taste of Grace by Greg Albrecht

God's grace is at the heart of the relationship God offers us. He offers this grace on His terms – that we surrender all Christ-less exercises, rituals, etc., that attempt to persuade us that in some way our efforts make us spiritually sufficient apart from Him. “Sadly, within Christ-less religion, which predominates in Christendom today, grace is only a word.” We must rid ourselves of the performance based way of relating to God, Greg writes.

Greg is strong on grace. I get that and I appreciate that. I have been taught all my life that my relationship to God, through Christ, is all by grace.
Greg is strong in opposing anyone teaching that God will love them more if they behave a certain way. I get that too.
But I am uncomfortable with some of what is presented in this book. He talks so much about Christ-less religion, as if that is what most of Christianity is today. I just don't think that is true.
I am a bit uncomfortable with his conclusions from some of Jesus' parables. He seems to think he has insight into the true meaning of some of the parables – something Christians have missed for two thousand years. That kind of thinking is usually a red flag with me.
For example, he goes to the “parable of the talents.” He interprets the “talents,” or “bags of gold” as a newer translation has it, as grace. “The third servant buried grace like a dead corpse. It's an insult to God's vibrant grace to hide it, bury it, hoard it!” The other two were commended by Jesus because they were willing to spend the grace He had so freely given them.
And with the “widow's mite,” Mark 12:38-44, Greg says, “Jesus was denouncing institutions that bankrupt and further impoverish those whom they ostensibly serve.” Watching the widow was a field trip Jesus provided His disciples. “Jesus gives the widow as an example of a religious victim – and in so doing he is providing clear, unambiguous teaching that no human being should ever feel obligated to give everything they have to a church or ministry.”
Sometimes Greg is just unclear as to what he believes. He calls John 3:16 one of the most misunderstood and most abused scriptures in the Bible. God will, “in his own time and his own way, express his love and make his love known to the whole world.” At times he almost sounds like a universalist, writing of God's “all inclusive love.”.
Towards the end he writes, “We are invited to receive God's grace and accept, without stipulation or reservation what Jesus has done for us.” Just “what Jesus has done for us” is unclear. He rejects penal substitution, the concept that “Jesus took our place, receiving the penalty we would otherwise receive from the father.” He calls it “One of the most sinister teachings of all...” He writes that accepting this teaching “casts doubts on the degree of God's love and grace.” But nowhere does Greg then tell us what Jesus did do on the cross.

Perhaps what disturbs me the most is what Greg left out of his book. There is nothing from Paul's writings, like running the race, or resisting the devil, or anything about the many admonitions Paul has for living the Christian life.

I feel too uncomfortable about the book to recommend it.

Greg Albrecht is president of Plain Truth Ministries, editor-in-chief of Plain Truth magazine and teacher at Christianity Without the Religion (

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher (or a representative of the publisher) for the purpose of this review.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

18-Wheeler Jihad by Ken Bontrager

This novel was a pleasant surprise as it is essentially a self-published book. The writing is pretty good and the plot believable. Bontrager has created an immediate future where Muslim terrorists use 18-wheelers to transport nuclear bombs to major cities in the United States. The major characters are the trucking company owner and his wife, an agent for the Department of Homeland Security. There is plenty of action and suspense in this novel, right to the very end. And there is enough left unfinished that there could easily be a sequel.

On the positive side, the gospel is presented a couple of times in this book. So no one can read this book and not come across the plan of salvation!
Bortrager has done lots of research on Islam and the reader will learn much about terrorists and why they do what they do.
But there were a few issues I felt are on the unrealistic side. In this book three Muslims are converted to Christianity, supernaturally and quickly, when it happens. One involves a vision of Jesus. Another, by picking up a Bible and reading it. I do know that this kind of thing is happening in the Muslims world. However, to have it happen to three Muslims in this short book is a bit much.
Also, Patricia, the HSA Agent does a dumb thing in calling one of the truck drivers, letting him know the authorities are on to their terrorist plot. I just don't think a trained agent would be that stupid.
And, it seems the author has an agenda when it comes to the current President of the U. S. It was very evident and seemed a bit over the edge to me.
Also, I think the book would have benefited from editing. However, being a self published book, I think Bontrager has done a pretty good job.

Ken Bontrager has been a successful businessman in farming, manufacturing and trucking. In 2005, he became the founding pastor of Solid Rock Chapel in Sullivan, Illinois, where he still serves as senior pastor. His passion is studying and teaching Bible prophecy and how it relates to current events. He is married and the father of three grown daughters.

Outskirts Press, 212 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Rocks Don't Lie by David R. Montgomery

David writes, “Growing up, I was satisfied that Jesus taught how to live a good life and that science revealed how the world worked.” (10) He had never thought much about the conflict between science and religion. Then he met a gregarious fundamentalist on jury duty. She believed Noah's Flood explained nearly all of earth's history.
He did some investigating. “Today almost half of the American public believes in young earth creationism – that the world is about six thousand years old and that Noah's Flood reshaped Earth's surface into today's world a few thousand years before the time of Christ.” (11)
David argues that we cannot ignore what we learn from geology. He takes us through the story of how geologists learned to read the history of the world. He also reviews the history of flood ideas and geological formations, and includes flood traditions from many cultures.
He argues for an allegorical view of the Bible. “Two centuries ago, Christian scholars adapted how they read the Bible to account for geological revelations. Why not now?” (123)
He traces the roots of modern day creationism. I was surprised to find out it is a rather recent development in the history of Christian thought.
He ends with some reasonable explanations for Noah's Flood account, such as the Black Sea flood.

I learned a great deal from this book. For example, when geological evidence began to mount against a world wide flood, Christians responded in three ways. Some abandoned the Bible as an authoritative text, some tried to reconcile the Bible and science, and others just rejected scientific evidence they felt threatened Bible authority. “These approaches correspond, respectively, to secular modernism, mainstream Christianity, and reactionary fundamentalism.” (248)

David had, as most geologists, come to see Noah's Flood as a fairy tale. “Now,” he writes, “I've come to see the story of Noah's Flood like so many other flood stories – as rooted in truth.” (253)
He has a very good grasp of the limitations of science. He admits that science cannot prove that God exists, or does not exist. “And no matter how much we learn about the material history of the universe, such knowledge will not explain why the universe exists or how it came to have the properties it does. This will always be a matter of speculation – or faith.” (254)

Whether you are an “old earth” or a “young earth” Christian, you would benefit from reading this book. David explains a great deal about geology, how dates are determined, and how Christians have responded to the information over the centuries. He has, in my view, presented a balanced investigation. He knows his Bible and Christian history well.
I don't know if reading this book would change your mind on Noah's Flood, one way or the other. But I do think Christians need to be informed on the issue and this book is a great resource.

David R. Montgomery teaches geomorphology at the University of Washington and lives in Seattle with his wife and black Lab.

W. W. Norton & Co., 302 pages.