Friday, August 31, 2012

One Nation Without God? by David Aikman

Aikman begins by reviewing the current literature on the state of Christianity in America, paying special attention to what has been written about American teens and young adults.
He asks, “Was America ever a Christian nation?” If your criterion is that 90 percent of the population considered themselves Christians (even if they never went to church), then, Aikman writes, America was at one point Christian. But, others argue, if you mean the nation was a society reflecting the ideals of Scripture, then early America does not deserve to be called Christian. Aikman notes that Winthrop did desire to build such a state, with laws modeled on the Old Testament.
He reviews the steady rise of opposition to Christianity in the U. S., describing the works of Hegel and Feuerbach and their effect on American universities. He traces the influence of Darwinism and follows the changes in the academic world and culture. He notes the influence of Billy Graham and then the erosion of respect for Christianity in the 1960s. He concludes that driving out religion, specifically Christianity, from higher education altogether succeeded to a large extent.
Aikman writes that serious setbacks to Christianity can and have been reversed, such as the Wesleyan revival in England. This is not the end of the story for Christianity in America. He reports on the Chinese rediscovering God, the resurgence of theism in academic philosophy departments, the work of Christian campus organizations, and the renewed interest in Calvinism among the young.

This is a good introductory review of Christianity in America. Those who have read a great deal on the topic may not find anything new here.
The encouragement at the end of this book gives one hope. Christianity may be down, but it is not out.

See more about this book at

David Aikman is an award-winning print and broadcast journalist, a bestselling author, and a foreign affairs commentator based in the Washington, DC area. You can learn more about him at

Baker Publishing Group, 204 pages.

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The 13: Fall by Robbie Cheuvront & Erik Reed

It's a little over a decade in the future. The President of the U.S. has been receiving mysterious announcements from a man who is warning the President about a future judgment on the nation. Unless the nation returns to honoring God, the judgment will come. While the President is a Christian, he is in a turmoil. Is this man a crackpot, a sham, or is this really a word from the Lord?
The President assembles a team of the best in national security to find this man they have dubbed The Prophet. Jon Keene is an extraordinary CIA agent with a chip on his shoulder against God for letting his wife die. Megan Taylor is undoubtedly the best computer hacker the FBI has in their ranks. A fervent Christian, she can get into any server, connect with any secured network, anytime. And Bozwell Hamilton, an ex-special ops soldier turned pastor.
As the three work to find The Prophet, the unthinkable happens. The greedy head of the recently combined national defense agencies has made a deal with the Chinese. New stealth technology has allowed the Chinese to hover at the U.S. borders. The scheme is that the Chinese would be allowed into U. S. protected areas to drill for their much needed oil. But the Chinese have a much more serious plan in mind – invasion.

This is a well written suspenseful novel. The characters are well developed, the plot is superb and the action is continuous. I highly recommend this novel as it portrays a very possible future for the United States. This is the first in a series and the book leaves you waiting for the next installment!

Watch the book trailer here.

Go here for publisher's information and to read a chapter. 

Barbour Publishing, 320 pages.

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

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Center Church by Timothy Keller

Many have come to Keller's church wanting to know how to do ministry so they can be as effective as Redeemer Church. Keller is quick to point out that one vision or method will not work for all churches. He has written this book to provide a means for those in ministry to form their own theological vision, that vision for what you are going to do with your doctrine in a particular time and place. He advocates a well conceived vision for how to bring the gospel to bear on your particular cultural setting and historic moment.
The first part of the book is about gospel theology. He helps us understand what the gospel is, its contextualization, and that it affects virtually everything.
The next part is about gospel renewal, both personal and church. He shows how the church can cooperate with the Holy Spirit in bringing about gospel renewal.
He then looks at gospel contextualization and how that can be done in a God honoring manner. His discussion of the Bible and culture is excellent. He presents three biblical foundations for doing careful contextualization.
The next part of the book is about the city. He reviews its history, its place in the Bible, and its relation to culture. He writes, “If Christians want to reach the unreached, we must go to the cities.” (162)
Part five is about cultural engagement. He takes us through the history of and then models for cultural engagement. He suggests a balance among several polarities.
Part six is about mission. The gospel moves into the community and people are equipped for missional living. He explains the marks of a missional church as well as how to equip people for engaging their community.
Part seven is about integrative ministry, connecting people to God (worship), to one another (community), to the needs of the city, and to culture.
Part eight is on movements and institutions. Churches with movement dynamics generate converts, ideas, leaders and resources from within. There will also be movement without, such as church planting.
Keller explains in his Epilogue that he has written this book particularly for churches in urban settings. However, he also notes that the book is intended just as much for churches and ministries who minister to those of the modern culture.
This is an excellent book for anyone doing ministry. There is a wealth of information contained in the book. You will be both inspired and humbled at the task before you.

Food for thought: Keller notes a sure sign of an idol. “If we lose a good thing, it makes us sad, but if we lose an idol, it devastates us.” (69)

Find out more about Timothy Keller at

Zondervan, 400 pages.

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

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Power of Prophetic Blessing by John Hagee

John Hagee believes in the power of words. He believes in the power of blessing. He writes, “You have the ability, through the power of blessing, to revolutionize your life and control your future.” (18)
In this book, he explores the Prophetic Blessing. “The Prophetic Blessing is a spoken declaration by a spiritual authority over the life of an individual. The words of the blessing carry the power to control and direct the life of the person over whom they have spoken.” (94)
He first covers the Priestly Blessing of Numbers 6:22-27, notes that its content cannot be changed, and looks at the three promises it includes.
He distinguishes the Priestly Blessing from the Prophetic Blessing. The Priestly Blessing is God's declaration. “The Prophetic Blessing is the spoken declaration by God's spiritual authority concerning the life of an individual.” (26) The Prophetic Blessing is unique to each individual.
He reviews all the blessings of the Bible, such as that in Genesis, to Abraham, Jacob prophesying over his sons, and Jesus' prophetic blessings (the Beatitudes). He covers the six scriptural requirements for releasing and receiving a prophetic blessing.

While I appreciate a book on the power of spoken words, I think Hagee goes a bit far sometimes. As I noted in the first quote above, Hagee says I have the ability, through the power of blessing, to control my future. Where does that leave a sovereign God? I would rather submit myself to Him and let Him control my future.
Hagee paints a dire picture if I don't speak the Prophetic Blessing. “If you refuse to proclaim God's Word over your life and the lives of your loved ones through the Prophetic Blessing, you cut yourself off from your High Priest in heaven.” (214) Really!
And it seems Hagee has included some sloppy, at best, or deceptive, at worst, review of Abraham's (Abram's) life. He writes that Abraham “obediently left Ur, his family...” (54) The Bible scholars I've read say that Abraham taking his nephew lot with him was an act of disobedience to God's command to leave his family behind. Hagee also writes that God told Abraham to leave Canaan and go to Egypt. Hagee would have us believe that Abraham giving over Sarah (Sarai) to the Pharaoh was an act of faith in God's deliverance. (56) I just reread Genesis 12 and just don't see it.
Hagee speculates, “As [Abram] sojourned in Egypt, his thoughts were on the Prophetic Blessing God had spoken over him.” (55) Really! Hagee knows what Abram was thinking about?
There are some problems, too, with Hagee's interpretation of Joseph as a type. For example, based on the fact that Joseph that Joseph revealed himself to his brothers the third time they came to Egypt, he says Jesus will reveal himself to the Jewish people the third time they enter the Land. (152-3) This was May 15, 1948, nearly 65 years ago. So, are the Jews still waiting for this revelation?
Also based on the Joseph type, Hagee says Christians will be raptured before Christ returns just as Joseph asked the Egyptians to leave the room before he revealed himself to his brothers. (153-4) Does Hagee really mean to have the (faithful) church he believes will be raptured likened to the Egyptians, earthly and ungodly people in typology? I think he has stretched the idea of typology beyond credibility.
Lastly, Hagee spends a great deal of time writing about Israel. I know he has strong feelings about Israel, but he spends way too much time on the nation in a book that is supposed to be about speaking blessings on your children, your wife, etc.

John Hagee is the author of four new York Times bestsellers. He is the founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. He is the founder and president of John Hagee Ministries which telecasts his radio and television teachings to some 249 nations. He is also the founder and chairman of Christians United for Israel.

Worthy Publishing, 300 pages.

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

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Body Broken by Charles Drew

Body Broken is an updated and revised version of A Public Faith (NavPress, 2000).
Drew finds it sad that the body of Christ should be divided along political lines. The church has what it takes to be different from every other social institution in the world. Pondering how serious minded Republicans, Democrats and Independents worship together brought him to preach a serious of sermons that became this book.
To help those who want to celebrate their unity in Christ, he makes some distinctions in this book: distinction between moral principle and political strategy, between the calling of individuals and the calling of the church, and between theocracy and influence.
He addresses the question of how Christians should respond to what have named the culture wars. Do we remove ourselves or do we fight?
He has ordered this book around the Bible. He identifies our misdirected worship as the deepest cause for the heat in our political disagreements. He calls us to put our trust in God's sovereign rule.
He clarifies the priorities of the church in public life. He explores the ramifications of Jesus' teaching about what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God. He ends his book with ways of affecting social and political change that lies outside of the world of politics.
He has questions at the end of each chapter. While you could make good use of them on your own, they would be better used in a group setting.

Some will certainly bristle at what Drew suggests. For example, that hope in politics may have become an idol, or that we are not to make America legally Christian, or that we do not value God's glory above political goals.

I found his suggestions very valuable. Respect people. “Whatever we do as American citizens we must always act upon our King's operating principle that people are more important than politics or power.” (107) Look for ways to cooperate – Christians working together in a fallen world. Use your gifts and opportunities to bring the reign of Christ to bear upon your particular world. Choose to do what is right. Keep it simple.

In this year of national elections when feelings run strong, I recommend reading this book to help each of us keep politics and God's rule in perspective.

Charles Drew has pastored for thirty years in Virginia, Long Island, and New York, all in university settings. He presently serves as the senior minister at Emmanuel Presbyterian Church, near Columbia University.

Follow the author's blog on this topic here.

New Growth Press, 175 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from The TB&B Media Group for the purpose of this review.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Tea Party Culture War by Stephen Johnston

Johnston believes we are at a point of no return for America. He writes, “The 2012 presidential election represents a fight for America to determine whether our nation will become a godless socialist country or an economically sound one based on biblical values.”
The book is in three parts. The first part covers the cultural attacks by the belief systems of theism, naturalism, and pantheism. The second part examines how non-theistic worldviews have influenced the American government and economy. The third part is an examination of how eastern mysticism has invaded religion and the Christian church in particular. He ends the book with a section on eschatology.
Johnston hopes that when you reach the end of the book, you will clearly understand that America is truly in a culture war.

There is good news and bad news about this book. The good news is that Johnston presents an excellent historical look at the various influences on current culture. His section on financial history, especially banking in England, was great. I found a great deal of historical information there I had never seen before.
The bad news is that Johnston sometimes make statements that are a bit over the edge, I think. For example, “The welfare state in America is creating a growing number of entitled sociopaths who are incapable of determining right from wrong.” And “Rick Warren and Robert Schuller's 'Chrislam' is an unbiblical unity of Christianity and Islam.”
Sometimes he wants to write the platform for the Party. “[Those in the Tea Party] must advocate for nuclear energy as the only feasible alternative to petroleum.”
Sometimes he would have us believe that our problems is the result of a conspiracy. He claims the problems afflicting America “reflect the destructive accomplishments of a long-term conspiracy against American society.” He fails to identify the conspiracy makers, however.
Sometimes he treats the nation as if it were an entity with a will of its own. “...[T]he reality is that if the United States is to prosper, it must return to its roots, worship God, and obey the core principles of the Judeo/Christian values on which it was founded.” I can see people worshiping God, but a nation?
Sometimes his writing is a little simplified in its conclusion. He writes that Einstein's theories “laid the foundation for the 'Big Bang Theory,' which would basically disprove the validity of evolution.” Really! Lest we didn't get it the first time, he repeats it later. “Albert Einstein's theories of relativity and Hubbell's [sic] finding that the universe had a beginning point were seriously undermining the validity of the theory of evolution, as it was now becoming apparent that the billions of years needed for Darwin's system of mutant species to work simply did not exist.” I am sure there are many evolutionary scientists who say the 13.7 billion year age of the universe might be long enough.

But then, I think America is off the hook. Johnston says the future of the nation lies in the hands of the Tea Party members. “As those of us in the Tea Party worship and obey God and His laws, our country will be blessed. But if we turn from God and fail to follow His laws, then we will bring judgment to our country and our children's children. Their fate is in our hands!”
OK, Tea Party members. The pressure is on.

You can find out more about the book and the author at
Watch a video here.
I am taking part in a blog tour. See other reviews here.

Steve Johnston grew up in Southern California and was raised by fundamentalist Christian parents. He received degrees in law and theology. He is the former Vice-President of Apache Gas Company and former CEO of Morning Star Industries. He has served as a prison chaplain, is a supporter of the Tea Party and has written a previous book, When is Judgment Day? He divides time between his homes in Palm Desert, California and Brookings, Oregon.

Wine Press Publishing, 232 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book for the purpose of this review. I read this book on a device where the page numbers did not correspond to that of the printed book. Therefore, I was unable to give the appropriate page numbers for the quotes from the book.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Live to Give by Austin Gutwein

What does it mean to live to give? It starts with knowing the reason God put you on this earth. God has something for you to do. He has given you a gift and when you use it, it keeps in giving. Austin knows that God could do it all Himself. Yet, for some reason, God chooses people to solve the world's problems.
Austin has written this book to help young people understand what they have been living for and what they were made to be living for. He uses the example of the boy in John 6 with the lunch to show that each person is unique. He helps his readers find out what their spiritual gifts are.
He continues to use the idea of the lunch to teach several spiritual lessons. He has the knack of telling a very interesting story then associating a truth lesson with it. For example, oven baked, Chicago style pizza can take forty-five minutes to bake. But, “Like many good things, it's worth the wait.” (124) He goes on to write about waiting for God to produce results in your giving. Like planting a garden, results might not come for months.
Austin declares, “Nothing beats living this way! Nothing we could eat, drink, buy, play, watch, or win in life can compare to the feeling of giving ourselves away...” (11)
His final encouragement is to start where you are. “Be willing to let Him use you and your lunch.” (190)

This is a great book for teens. Austins gives man examples of young people who are giving their lives away. He relates stories of Bible characters. And he adds just the right amount of humor.
There are discussion questions at the end of each chapter so this would be a perfect book for a group study.

Austin Gutwein was nine years old when he watched a video showing children who had lost their parents to AIDS. He felt called to do something to help them. He loved basketball and decided to shoot free throws. On World AIDS Day, 2004, he shot 2,057 free throws to represent the 2,057 kids who would be orphaned during his day at school. Friends and family sponsored Austin and he raised almost $3,000 that year, helping provide hope for eight orphans. Hoops of Hope has become the largest free throw marathon in the world, with an estimated 40,000 people in 25 countries participating, raising more than $2.5 million. Austin's first book is Take Your Best Shot.
You can learn more about Austin and his ministry at and

Watch a video here.

I am participating in a blog tour of this book. To see other reviews, go here.

Thomas nelson Publishers, 199 pages.

Please visit your local Christian bookstore to buy this book.

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Nothing to Hide by J. Mark Bertrand

A headless corpse is found in a parking lot in Houston and Detective Roland March is on the case. The victim's hands are skinned so there are no fingerprints. (You have probably already figured out that this is not a “cozy” mystery.) But DNA evidence identifies him as a FBI agent.
When the case agent tries to keep March under control, he knows there is more to the murder than the FBI is admitting. March refuses to let the investigation go and does some deeper digging.
As March and his partner pursue the gun smuggling aspect of the case, March watches in horror as his partner is gunned down. He grabs an automatic from the recently discovered stash. One pull on the trigger and his partner's killer is down. But there were so many bullet wounds, March is put on administrative leave and is under internal investigation.
But he cannot let the investigation go. The deeper he goes on his own time, the more he finds the FBI has something to hide. He follows the guns to Mexico where it all goes bad.

Nothing to Hide is the next in the series featuring the hard boiled detective Roland March. This serious is not for the weak stomached. There are lots of gun fights and slicing of flesh. Roland March is not a Christian but his wife is. Christianity and Christian beliefs pop up here and there but are not central to the plot. This would be the kind of novel you could recommend to your unsaved detective mystery loving friend with a view to discussing it.

The plot is very complex, with hidden personalities and many subplots. Sometimes I got a bit impatient with the complexity of the whole thing.
There were a few places in the book where I felt the action wasn't quite right. I was most disappointed in the ending. As in a B western, the calvary comes over the hill and saves March from what appears to be an impossible situation. Ugh.

If you like hard boiled detective stories, you'll probably like this one. While it is not the first in the series, this novel can be read on its own. There are allusions to earlier novels but this plot reads well by itself.

Bethany House Publishers, 330 pages.

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

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Spark by Jason Jaggard

Why do you change? It may be that the pain of staying the same is just too much. But change also happens when there is a future pleasure anticipated.
Jason is just an ordinary guy who wants to live a meaningful life. This book is his attempt to create a road map that leads to a more meaningful life and to challenge you to take the risk to get there.
He investigates the most common ways we look at growth, learning, and the tools needed to accomplish both. He presents a different, more exciting and transformative way to growth and learning.
Jason defines a Spark as a choice. It is a decision to move from inaction to action.
You know you were meant to go further than where you are today. You are one healthy choice away from changing your life. Change always involves risk. Risk is scary but necessary.
Jason explains how to start and lead a Spark group. He shares lots of his own experiences – even his mistakes. He shares the experiences of others, too.
He makes sure you understand that he is writing about healthy risks. It is not just any risk that is important. He highlights the necessary values: risk, compassion and optimism.
He reminds us, “God's favorite gift to give people is the opportunity to serve others.” (193)

Jason is passionate about helping people cultivate an appetite for healthy risk taking. He believes you were designed to be an extraordinary human being. What might happen in your life if you took a risk? What risk will you take this week?

This is not the most inspiring book I have read about change and making the decisions to accomplish that change. His unique idea, however, is the group support, finding a group of people who are willing to take one risk each week for four weeks. He gives several examples of groups who accomplished something none could have done on their own.

You can find out more about the Spark movement, testimonials, and ideas on forming a Spark Group at
You can watch a video here.
Follow Jaggard on Twitter.
Listen to a podcast.
Read the first chapter here.

Jason Jaggard is CEO/Founder of Spark Good and is the creator of Spark Groups. He teaches at Pepperdine University and speaks to a wide variety of audiences across the country.

WaterBrook Press, 224 pages. Publisher product page.

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

Monday, August 20, 2012

Should Christians be Environmentalists? by Dan Story

The primary purpose of Story's book is threefold. First, to encourage godly environmental by systematically developing a Bible-based theology of nature, including guidelines for environmental ethics. Second, to present an apologetic to anti-Christian environmentalists who claim Christianity is the root cause of environmental exploitation. Third, to identify points of contact – areas of concern to both Christians and non-Christians – that can be starting points of conversation, often leading to opportunities for sharing the gospel. (11-12)
He reports on the demise of outdoor activity (especially among children) and the positive effects of nature on human mental health. He explains why conservative Christians are reluctant to embrace environmentalism.
He investigates the claim that Christians are responsible for the environmental crisis. While he does admit that “throughout church history the majority of Christians have exercised a destructive exploitive attitude toward nature,” (34) he notes that this has been the case for all cultures and societies, regardless of religious belief.
In developing his theology of nature, he reminds us that God proclaimed all creation as very good. Story argues that nature has value to God in and of itself, independent of the human race. “The Bible does not teach that God created the earth solely for human consumption and comfort.” (84) God expresses concern for nonhuman life and derives joy from the animals he created. (89)
Story investigates whether exploiting nature is a sin. He looks at the effects of the Fall and God's plan for restoration. He develops an ethical basis for environmental stewardship from the moral principles taught by Jesus.
Story argues that Christianity is unique among religions. “Only biblical Christianity recognizes that mankind possesses distinct stewardship responsibilities over creation according to a divine plan. Only biblical Christianity provides the objective moral principles needed to establish environmental ethics and to provide guidance for environmental stewardship.” (58)
His summation, “the biblical view of environmental ethics balances human material needs with moral obligations to ensure the welfare of God's creation.” (153)

Story has provided a thought provoking and balanced argument toward creation care. Reading this book will help us become the stewards God intended us to be.

Dan Story is the author of six books. He has appeared on radio programs and TV. Find out more about Dan Story at There you will find a biography, his credentials, a list of his other works and other information about his ministry.

Kregel Publications, 202 pages. Publisher product page.

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

House of Mercy by Erin Healy

College-aged Beth aspires to being a veterinarian. She seems to knows intuitively how to help hurting animals. And sometimes she has a special gift as she sees a healing that goes beyond what is naturally possible. Beth anticipates returning to her family farm, a cattle ranch in southern Colorado that has been in the family for five generations.
But she makes a devastating mistake that might cause her family to lose the farm altogether. Her actions alienate her from her older brother and even her mother. Her father sticks by her, until the unthinkable happens.
There might be a way for Beth to prevent further destruction for her family. She must find the one man who might be able to help. When Beth's brother claims he sold her truck, Beth sets out to find him - on horseback, across treacherous mountains.
On her journey she again encounters the mysterious wolf – the wolf who was at the center of her devastating mistake. As she follows the leading of that wolf, she finds much more than she was looking for.

Erin has once again created an intriguing novel. As is her style, there is a theme of the supernatural that follows parallel to the plot. And she has portrayed Beth well as she struggles with the concept of miracles, why they sometimes happen and sometimes don't. There is also the strong theme of forgiveness and reconciliation as Beth's family must deal with decisions made long ago.
The strength of the book, I think, is how it deals with trusting in God when He does not always do what we think He should. Beth encounters people who have not been healed. One character, feeling she has been wronged by God because He has not healed her, asks Beth, “Why do you follow such a God?” Beth answers swiftly. “Because I believe he is good. Not because he gives me what I want, but just because he is. He doesn't owe me any other explanation.” (325)

This novel will challenge you to follow God because He is. Beth finds out that God does not always give us what we want. She learns that He has something much better for us in His plans.

Thomas Nelson, 366 pages.

Erin Healy is an award-winning fiction editor and has worked with many well known authors. She has co-authored with Ted Dekker and has written three novels herself. She and her family live in Colorado. Find out more at

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

Monday, August 13, 2012

Globequake by Wallace Henley

Henley believes, “the answer for people living in our turbulent times is found in God, His Word, and His Kingdom.” (xii)
People are seeking security in a world gone wild. Our planet is in worldwide turbulence. It's a Globequake. It is as if the tectonic plates of society and culture are being torn apart. He calls it a Globequake because of its scope, velocity, and magnitude.
Only God's Kingdom cannot be shaken and he gives the reasons why this is so. We must bring God's Kingdom into our world, into each of the spheres of person, church, family, education, government, and business. He offers biblical truths that can be applied to bring stability to ourselves, our families, and our institutions. He explains how this can be done through renewal of vision, reinventions, and transformation.
He ends the book by reminding us that humans need hope. We cannot live without it. That will only come from living in the unshakable kingdom.

Henley shares his observations of the current world situation. He is very knowledgeable, giving insight in how we got to the situation we are today and then what can be done to bring God's Kingdom to it. He uses his skills as a journalist and government aid as he reports on the world condition. He uses his experience as a pastor as he gives a blueprint for action. He encourages us to see the current situation as an invitation to renew our faith and anchor ourselves in Christ.

There is nothing earth-shakingly new in this book. It is a good reminder, however, to keep our focus on God and His Kingdom.

Wallace Henley has been a journalist and an aid in the Nixon White House. He felt called to the ministry and is now assistant pastor in the 56,000 member Second Baptist Church of Houston. He and his wife live in the Houston area. Find out more at

Thomas Nelson Publishers, 276 pages.

Publisher's product page.

Please visit your local Christian bookstore to buy this book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from The B & B Media Group for the purpose of this review.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung

 “The Bible could not be any clearer,” DeYoung writes. “The reason for your entire salvation, the design behind your deliverance, the purpose for which God chose you in the first place is holiness.” Holiness is not an option. (Heb. 12:14) “The hole in our holiness is that we don't really care much about it.”
He traces how we got to this point of holiness not being cool, the old taboos. He notes that holiness is hard and we are lazy. He is careful to distinguish the holiness that is reckoned to us because of the righteousness of Christ and the holiness commanded of us so many times in the Bible.
He writes about what holiness is not, such as a moral checklist or being flawless. He clarifies what holiness is, such as a renewal of God's image in us, and a life of virtue. He notes that it is only possible for those in Christ.
DeYoung is adamant on the importance of holiness in the believer's life. “No matter what you profess, if you show disregard for Christ by giving yourself over to sin – impenitently and habitually – then heaven is not your home.” And, “A complete disregard for holiness indicates that we do not have fellowship with Christ and are not in him.”
Some might argue that living a holy life is not possible. DeYoung is convinced we can walk in a manner worthy of our calling (Eph. 4:1). We can be trained to live in a way that is holy and acceptable to God (Rom. 12:1). We must “toil,” struggling with all our energy, as Christ works in us (Col. 1:2).
He adds four practices that move us in our oneness with Christ and he ends with a section on repentance.
His explanation of “in Christ” is the best I've read. And understanding that is important because, “Union with Christ fundamentally and irrevocably changes our relationship to sin.” Sin no longer has dominion.

Every few years a book comes out about which I feel so strong I'll buy copies to give to others to read. This is such a book. One of the reasons God saved me is that I might be holy (Eph. 1:3-4). Like many, perhaps, I'd lost sight of that in this culture which is so unholy. This is a book I'll reread, write in, discuss, and work at living out its contents.

Are you passionate in your pursuit of holiness? If you are, this book will be great encouragement. If you're not, this book will certainly jolt you into thinking again about your life, your actions, and pleasing God.

Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing Michigan. You can read his blog here.

Crossway Books, 160 pages. Publisher product page.

Please visit your local Christian bookstore to purchase this book when it is released August 31, 2012.

I received an advanced reading galley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. Note that I read a galley and some of the quotes above may be changed in the final edition of the book.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

You're Stronger Than You Think by Dr. Les Parrott

We hope for a better future yet our strength fades when we actually get to living life. Parrott says two experiences keep us from living the life we long for: hope deferred and hope dashed. He has written this book to show us where and how to find the strength we're looking for.
He has divided the book into three parts. He writes that we can find power in our minds when we clear our heads and when we think expectantly. We can find strength in our hearts when we own our weaknesses and when we feel connected. We find power in our souls when we surrender our egos and when we take bold risks.
Parrott does not provide any easy steps. It all comes down to a matter of the will, I think. “Take the energy it takes to stay stuck in your suffering and use it to write a new chapter in your life.” (132)
At the end of the books he writes about passion. Living with passion is worth the risk. But passion does not just appear. It is an inside job, coming from a burning commitment.

There is nothing profoundly new in this book. Parrott draws from many sources, including behavioral studies. His premise is that each of us has more strength in us than we realize. He gives some practical ideas in finding and developing that strength. It still is a matter of the will, I think. He suggests getting some friends to help along the pathway to being a stronger person.

Just a note about additional resources for this book. To receive the full benefit of this book, one would need to complete an online Strength Profile, as a cost. There is also a workbook Parrott recommends, again, at an additional cost.  There are questions and other helps at the end of each section in the book.
Nonetheless, one can benefit from reading this book. You won't find any quick answers. You will find ways to get in touch with the power you didn't know you had.

You can read an excerpt from the book at
Watch a video about the book:

Dr. Les Parrott is a bestselling author of several books. He and his wife are the co-founders of the Center for Relationship Development on the campus of Seattle Pacific University. He and his wife live in Seattle with their two sons. Find out more at

Tyndale House Publishers, 189 pages.

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

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tidewater Inn by Colleen Coble

Libby and Nicole are in the business of restoring historical buildings along the east coast. While Libby looks at one possible project, she sends Nicole to Hope Beach to begin work on another project. But Nicole finds more than a restoration project on the island in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Nicole arranged for Libby to watch her on a beach cam as they talk on the phone. But to Libby's horror, she watches as two men kidnap Nicole.
That is just the first of many mysteries Libby encounters as she arrives on Hope Island. She is surprised to find that she has inherited a large inn from the father she thought was long dead. She also has siblings she didn't know existed. As Libby tries to find her kidnapped friend and understand her newly found family situation, she becomes a suspect in Nicole's kidnapping. Even when some of Nicole's clothing washes up on a beach, Libby refuses to believe her closest friend is dead.

This is another good novel from Coble. She develops a good mystery along with a supporting romance. You learn about life on the Outer Banks islands, especially one accessible only by boat. There is a strong theme of Christian character and growth as well as restoration of severed relationships. You get to experience a little history too as a cave on the island contains a pirate stash.
I felt there were some minor problems with the novel. Libby has a personal history that plays into this novel and I was surprised this was the first in a series. I thought there had been a previous novel setting the stage for this one. Also, there seemed to be a real disconnect between the character of Libby's father years ago and his character later in life. There was never any explanation for the change. Also, Coble created quite a red herring as to who arranged Nicole's kidnapping. I felt that red herring was a loose end not tied up at the novel's conclusion.

Nonetheless, this is a great summer read. I look forward to more in the series.

I am participating in a blog tour of this book.  You can read the reviews of others here.

Colleen Coble has won numerous awards and has nearly 2 million books in print. She is the CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers and is a member of Romance Writers of America. She lives with her husband in Indiana. Find out more about her at  

Thomas Nelson Publishers, 320 pages.
Please visit your local Christian bookstore to buy this book.

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

Monday, August 6, 2012

God Knows Your Name by Catherine Campbell

Do you sometimes feel like God doesn't even know you exist, let alone know what you are going through? Do you think the Bible is irrelevant to the trials you are experiencing?
Catherine wants you to know that in a world filled with rejection, “we are known to the God who created us and who gave up his Son to die for us on Calvary.” (12) She writes of God's personal love for us in three ways. She shares her own story, the stories of others, and stories from the bible.
Catherine knows of God's love through her own experience. Their first child was born with a genetic disorder that left her severely disabled. She could not understand how that could be part of God's plan for her life. Then Isaiah 43:1 deeply impacted her life. She has since discovered that God desires to know personally those who feel unloved and rejected.
She shares true stories of people who have seen God's love transform their lives. Some are stories from foreign mission fields. Others could be the stories of your neighbors.
Catherine relates stories from the Bible in an amazing way. She chose stories of those whose lives were in shambles. People who were rejected and were full of heartache. She retells the stories with great insight, adding fictional details that set the stage. I have certainly read the story of the woman with the issue of blood many times (Mark 5:21-34). Catherine has brought the story alive, including all the possible cures the woman tried, the actions of her husband and mother-in-law.

What an encouraging book, revealing the unchanging love and grace of God for the broken. Catherine did extensive research so that her biblical stories have been carefully re-imagined according to the religion and culture of the day. The results are stories that come alive with great impact.
And the stories she tells of contemporary people have been written with respect and care. Each one is very inspiring.

Do you wonder if God even knows you exist? Read this book and be reminded that God does know you. He loves you. He knows you by name.

Go here to read an excerpt of the book.

Catherine Campbell is a nurse, midwife, writer and inspirational speaker, living in Coleraine, Northern Ireland. Check out her website at for podcasts and other information. Watch a profile video here. You can also follow her on her Facebook page.

Monarch Books, distributed in the U. S. by Kregel Publications, 220 pages.
Publisher's product page.

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

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Romanov Conspiracy by Glenn Meade

Mystery has surrounded the disappearance of the Romanovs in July of 1918. The last Russian Czar and his family were executed in the city of Ekaterinburg but details are lacking. While some bones have been found, none have been identified with the daughter Anastasia.
Glenn Meade has woven an exciting story surrounding an attempt at rescuing the Romanov family. He begins in the present day when an American forensic archaeologist makes a find near Ekaterinburg. A nearly perfectly preserved body of a woman is found in the permafrost, right where the mysterious Michael Yakov had predicted.
As the archaeologist questions Yakov, he tells the story of the attempt to save the Romanovs and the action moves back to 1918. The Czar has abdicated the throne. He and his family are being held in captivity as the Red Army knows their immediate execution would cause turmoil. In the meantime, a plan is being developed by an American to rescue the Romanovs.

Meade's book is a sweeping novel of revolutionary Russia of 1918. We are introduced to the violent officers of the Red Army. We experience the hate and fear the revolutionaries generated. And the death. The godless revolutionaries murder who they will. Yet there are those who would save what is decent and good by working undercover.

There is lots of violence in this novel as this was a violent time. If a bullet to the forehead is not something you'd like to read about, this novel may be too violent for you. Also, there is extramarital sex as part of the story. While there is no graphic descriptions or anything like that, I found it was included with no moral comment on it.

There is nothing particularly “Christian” about this novel. None of the characters are Christians, except perhaps the Russian nuns. There is certainly no gospel message or anything like that. It is well written historical fiction about a very turbulent time in Russia's history.

Find out more about Glenn Meade and his books at

Howard Books (a division of Simon & Schuster), 528 pages.

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

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mindful of Him by Hollis Hughes

Is chance all there is in the universe? Hollis has written a tale of a 1950s college student who takes a long awaited journey to find out.
Rob McLain had watched his parents' caskets lowered into the earth. How could he believe in a God who would allow such a tragedy to happen? The enlightenment philosophy that he had been introduced to in college would now be his guiding star.
Rob's wonderful wife Beth was his only stability in his troubled time. Yet Rob's inner rage boils over one tense night. Beth falls and miscarries. Unsure of the future, Beth goes to live with her parents.
Feeling he has lost even that part of his life, Rob decides to drop out of college and take a long overdue journey of discovery. He will hike into the forest and find the spring that is the origin of the river flowing near his childhood home. He is compelled to make the journey, even though the season is moving toward winter.

I can only describe this novel as a tale, almost a fairy tale. Mixed in with Rob's journey are experiences of fairy tale quality. Wise characters live along the river, imparting to Rob just what he needs to carry on. Rob sees visions and hears celestial music. Nature and weather combine to make almost a mythical setting for his journey.
This is a highly entertaining yet intellectually stimulating novel. My only warning is that there is language that some might find offensive. The language is not vulgar, however, and entirely fits the scene.

Watch a video about this book here.

I am taking part in a blog tour. Please go here to see other reviews.

Please visit your local Christian bookstore to buy this book.

Hollis Hughes was born on a cold February day in 1928, into a ramshackle house in a rural area, with no insulation, plumbing, or electricity. Hughes worked his way through Athens college. He was a high school teacher and counselor, and taught night classes at a community college. Hollis too the time to write as he was caring for his wife, struck with Alzheimer's Disease. Today he is retired from education and is an avid fly fisherman, hiker and gardener. He and his second wife make their home in Alabama.

WinePress, 276 pages.

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

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

River's End by Melody Carlson

This is the last novel in this series of The Inn at Shining Waters. If you have not read the other two, you will miss the meaning of much of the story line.
In this novel, Sarah returns to the river. She has been in a religious commune and has suffered because of it. Anna tries to help her become whole again.
The relationship is difficult between Sarah and her mom, Lauren, who is also at the Inn. Sarah can only remember the hurts her mom caused when she had been addicted to drugs. Even though Lauren has changed, Sarah refuses to see her. When the two do come in contact, Sarah runs away again.

This novel was the slowest in the trilogy. It takes place during the era of the Jonestown Massacre so you learn much about religious communes of that era, especially in Oregon. I did find the plot repetitive and slow. There is much thinking by the characters that I felt really bogged the story down. The ending was very predictable.

Abingdon Press, 320 pages.

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