Wednesday, October 31, 2012

At the Feet of Jesus by Joanna Weaver

 Weaver has taken excerpts from her three books with Bethany and added previously unpublished material (labeled “outtake”) to create this daily devotional. She includes a short Bible verse, a reference to a longer Bible passage, and a reflection question for each day. There are also nine sidebars called “Going Deeper” to help the reader develop a quiet time.
It is Weaver's prayer that readers will fall in love with God's Word in a brand new way and discover the message of grace interwoven throughout the Bible.

There are different ways to write a daily devotional and using material from previously published books is one of them. I don't think it is the most effective way to create a devotional.
One reason is because some of the quoted material is very long and covers several days of reading. The story from one of her books took three days to tell (January 9-11) and then the lesson was on the fourth day (January 12). So you have three incomplete days where you are just getting a portion of something, and then, finally, on the fourth day you get the lesson. I found that not satisfactory.
It was shortly followed by another lengthy series. The teaching on Flesh Woman begins January 16. January 17 is about Joanna having a public persona and a private one. She ends the devotion by hoping no one would find out what she was really like. “Because I wasn't certain I could be any different.” Romans 7 is covered on January 18. January 19 ends, “Though the Flesh Woman would never admit it, she's determined to do whatever it takes to remain in control of your life.” Finally, January 20 is an excerpt (from a different one of her books than the previous three days) on the battlefield of the mind. For me, that was just too much of a disconnect and it was kind of depressing, hearing the bad news for three days and finally getting the remedy on the fourth day.
A similar thing happens February 11-13 where an article by Robert Munger takes three days to get through.
I am also very picky when it comes to theology. For January 7, Weaver writes about humans having a God-shaped hole – a spiritual vacuum that only God can fill. Then she writes, “But have you ever considered that God might have a you-shaped hole, an emptiness that only you can fill?” Wow! Red flag! That God might somehow be incomplete without a relationship with me...well, that does not describe the God I worship!

Well, that's the bad news. The good news is that Weaver is very honest about her own spiritual walk. That should be great encouragement to women. And this book is definitely for women (much about feelings and other things particular to women).
The Going Deeper pages are excellent. I think I'd buy the book just for the valuable material contained in them. Her outline of how to journal your Bible reading is superb. So is the one listing tips for getting more from Bible study.
Weaver wants her readers to get into the Word and she has added a Bible Reading Plan at the end of the book. It can be started at any time. She also gives a web site where you can choose your starting date and the book of the Bible you'd like to begin with and print off your own reading plan.

Listen to a podcast by Joanna on this topic here.

Joanna Weaver has more than a million books in print. Her books include the ones used for this devotional: Having a Mary heart in a Martha World, Having a Mary Spirit, Lazarus Awakening. She has written articles appearing in major Christian magazines and has appeared on a number of national TV and radio broadcasts. She is also a sought after speaker at several events each year. She and her pastor husband, as well as their three children, live in Montana. You can learn more about her and her books at and more about her ministry at You can also connect with her at

I am participating in a blog tour of this book and you can find other reviews here.

WaterBrook, 391 pages. Publisher product page.

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

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Who is this Man? by John Ortberg

Jesus just won't go away – no matter how hard some have tried to get rid of him. His influence has been so great in our world, one has to ask, “Who is this man?”

Ortberg takes us through the life and influence of Jesus. He explores Jesus' birth, comparing him with Herod and reviewing the future of babies in that era. He looks at the events of Jesus' life, identifying his revolutionary compassion and his revolutionary attitude toward women. He looks at Jesus as teacher, his humility in an era of status, and his revolutionary command to love one's enemies. He writes on Jesus' teaching on one's relationship to government, on the nature of goodness and being a good person, and the change Jesus brought in the understanding of marriage.
Ortberg give lots of evidence about the influence of the followers of Jesus, beginning with the disciples and going through to our time, including the influence in art and music. He gives many thumbnail sketches of people whose lives have been changed by Jesus, the good they have done, and how they evidence the character qualities of Jesus.

Ortberg presents a wealth of background information in each of these areas. He really helps us understand the culture of Jesus' day. I was interested in his writing about how women were treated then. I had read some and knew quite a bit about the topic but found out more from Ortberg's book.

This is another in the line of books verifying that Jesus is who he said. The strength in this book is the vast amount of background material Ortberg has provided. It would certainly be a close-minded person who could still believe Jesus was only a regular human after reading this book.

John Ortberg is the pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California. He is the best-selling author of several books. He and his wife have three grown children.  See more at:

Zondervan, 220 pages. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Ship of Gold by Gary Kinder

In September 1857, the SS Central America, a side-wheel steamer carrying passengers returning from the California gold fields, went down during a hurricane off the Carolina coast. More than 400 lives and 21 tons of gold were lost.
The ship and it's valuable cargo remained at the bottom for over a hundred years. Then, in the 1980s, an engineer named Tommy Thompson set out to find the wreck and salvage the treasure.

Kinder has written an amazing book. It reads like a novel – full of adventure and suspense.
He begins with the discovery of gold in the Mexican held territory called California in 1848. He moves on to the collection and transport of gold, and finally to the SS Central America. He then intersperses the story of Tommy Thompson, his early life, working at Battelle, and finally his successful task of finding the SS Central America and recovering it's treasure.
Kinder must have done extensive research to be able to write about the SS Central America as if the disaster was happening right before our eyes. I don't think I've ever read a historical account written so well. I could hardly put it down. It is definitely a page turner and fun to read.

Vintage Books, 536 pages.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pleasing God by R. C. Sproul

“Every Christian should have a passion to please God,” Sproul writes. “We are to delight in honoring Him. It should be our greatest desire to please our Redeemer.” The priorities of the Christian life are to be seeking the kingdom, seeking righteousness.
Spirituality is often confused with righteousness. “Spirituality can be a cheap substitute for righteousness.” Righteousness is doing what is right in the sight of God. The demand of true righteousness is so great that no one will achieve it in this world. (Sproul distinguishes the righteousness we have in Christ and righteous living – pleasing God.)
Sproul covers several topics as he discusses the behavior that pleases God. He is pleased when we obey the Golden Rule, when we pursue justice and mercy, and when we practice loyal love. God is please when we resist Satan, when we throw ourselves on His mercy when we sin, when we gratefully accept His forgiveness, and when we make amends for the sins we commit against others.
He also covers a variety of other topics in his discussion. He writes about God demanding a transformed mind. He distinguishes forgiveness and the feeling of being forgiven (and the same with guilt). He writes on the error of the “carnal” Christian. He looks at pride, slothfulness, and dishonesty.
He ends with the necessity of right doctrine for right thinking and right living. His final encouragement is to never give up.

R. C. has written this book as a practical guide to Christian living. He covers a variety of issues dealing with righteousness and pleasing God. This is not light reading. Sproul doesn't like fluff and it shows. Any Christian desiring to know what it means to please God will benefit from reading this book. 
Find out more at

This book was originally published in 1994 (Tyndale House).

R. C. Sproul is the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education ministry based in Orlando, Florida. He also serve as senior minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew's, a Reformed congregation in Sanford, Florida, and as president of Reformation Bible College. He is the author of more than eighty books. He and his wife live in Longwood, Florida.

David C. Cook, 208 pages.

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

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Every Breath You Take by M. K. Gilroy

Detective Kristen Conner is back in Gilroy's second novel. A young man from a wealthy Chicago family has been murdered. Suspects include women from an online “companion” service the dead man and his friends used. Kristen is asked to go undercover to find out more about the women providing the service and the group of men who hire them.

I like police detecting novels and this is a good one. Gilroy has done a great job in creating and developing the character of Kristen. She has relationship issues. She is “dating” and FBI agent but the relationship is often rocky. Kristen is a tomboy, coaching her niece's soccer team. How ironic that Kristen is asked to go undercover as a companion with a dating service! Make up? Jewelry? High heels?
Kristen's family is an essential part of the novel. One sister is a well known TV news anchor in Chicago. Another is ready to give birth. Kristen's brother-in-law is a pastor. Kristen interacts with her family in a heartwarming yet realistic way.
Kristen has learned to hold her own in a man's world. She keeps herself in great shape, frequently exercising by boxing or practicing other combat sports. Her combat abilities are a necessary part of the exciting final scenes.
This novel has a good combination of relationship issues and intense action. I am usually critical of a male author writing about a female heroine. But Gilroy has done a good job of creating a believable female Chicago police detective.
One loose end is her stalker. What he can do (the equipment he can get) just doesn't seem to add up yet. Perhaps that will come together in the next in the series.
While this is the second novel about Detective Conner, it can easily be read on its own.

M. K. Gilroy is a thirty year publishing veteran, having worked his way up to vice president and publisher at Thomas Nelson. Gilroy, his wife and six children live near Brentwood, Tennessee. 

Go to to find out more about the author, watch a video about the book and more.

Worthy Publishing, 400 pages. Publisher product page.

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

Friday, October 26, 2012

Prayers of a Stranger by Davis Bunn

What a pleasant novel to read during the Christmas season.
A couple is healing from pain of a stillbirth the Christmas before. Amanda had been a nurse in the hospital natal unit. She could not face returning to that job and had been appointed personal assistant to the hospital's director. She excelled, even as she pushed down her pain.
Her husband Christ was with an electronics company, a company that looked like it was facing bankruptcy soon.
Their neighbors, an older couple, had received word their estranged daughter wanted to reconnect – again. Would it be like the last time she showed up, stealing her mother's jewelry and going back to drugs?
The lives of these two couples intertwine as the women travel to Israel and the men face their concerns at home. God graciously acts through the prayers of others as healing takes place in each of their lives.

A pleasant and satisfying novel.

Davis Bunn has sold more than seven million books in fifteen languages. He has been honored with three Christy Awards for excellence in historical and suspense fiction. For over a decade, Bunn has served as write in Residence at Regent's Park College, Oxford University, and was recently named Lecturer in the university's new creative writing program. Find out more at and

Thomas Nelson, 217 pages.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Greater by Steven Furtick

Have you felt like you were meant for something more but have settled for less?
Furtick wants you to experience the fullness of life in Christ. He believes God wants to accomplish greater things through you.
Furtick doesn't write about doing “great” things. Rather, he shows the way to a place he calls “greater.” Here, God is ready to accomplish that which is entirely out of human reach.
Elisha is used as an example of one obedient to God, leading to the path to “greater.” Furtick shows that you must be willing to think big but start small. He writes, “Your greatest limitation is God's greatest opportunity.”
But Furtick is also realistic. “The journey toward greater things is marked with setbacks and real suffering.” He shares his own experiences, admitting that it is much easier to write about than to live out.
He tries to explain suffering and talks about a heavenly trust fund. God didn't answer your prayers here but maybe He will there. He shares a number of heartwarming stories illustrating his ideas.
Furtick writes, “I can't tell you where the greater life will ultimately take you, but I can tell you where it starts. It starts where you are. You have everything you need to do all that God is calling you to do right now.”

This is one more book in the style of “do great things for God.” What makes this one a little different is Furtick sharing his own experiences of failure and suffering. He also makes a serious attempt at explaining why the path to “greater” is littered with setbacks. Furtick's book is probably the most realistic one I've read encouraging Christians to following the path they believe God has set before them. Furtick's book is not “believe” and God will do magnificent things through you. He is very realistic in this book and that should be an encouragement to anyone wanting to do what God has called them to do.

Steven Furtick is founder and lead pastor of Elevation Church, which in oly six years has grown to more than ten thousand in regular attendance. He and his wife have three children and live near Charlotte, North Carolina. Find out more about him and listen to his sermons at:

You can find out more about the book at:

WaterBrookMultnomah Books (a division of Random House), 224 pages.
Go to the publisher's product page to see a video and find more information about the book.

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Ghost of Christmas Present by Scott Abbott & Amy Maude Swinton

Patrick Guthrie's eight-year-old son needs a heart operation. Braden has an enlarged heart – the same condition that caused the death of Patrick's wife several years ago.
When Patrick returns to his high school classroom after the Thanksgiving vacation, he finds it empty. He and a few other teachers have been let go due to budget cuts.
Patrick is desperate. He has used up all of his financial reserves on his son. And then the child protection agency representative is at his door. He has just a few weeks to pay off the past due rent and utilities and have proof of employment. Otherwise Braden will go to the care of his rich father-in-law, a man who hates Patrick and is probably behind the attempt to take Braden.
To what lengths will Patrick go to make sure he can continue to care for the son he loves so much?

What a wonderful novel of parental love. Patrick is willing to make a fool of himself on the streets of New York City in order to keep custody of his son. He is willing to give of himself to others even when he himself is in such a time of need.

One theme in this novel is that of having a gift but then, because of parental or social pressure, not using that gift. We also see that lives can be changed when touched by the giving spirit of another.

There is no overt Christianity in this book. There is no gospel message. But there is the message of selfless giving and of lives being changed because of it. Lovers of Shakespeare will be delighted by the book, as will those who love Dickens' novella A Christmas Carol.

Scott Abbot is a recognized screen-writer. His credits include feature adaptations earning an Emmy and a Golden Globe.
Amy Maude Swinton has a theater background. This is her first novel.

Howard Books (a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.), 227 pages.
Publisher product page. 

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

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Bridge by Karen Kingsbury

Having owned a bookstore for over three decades, I can really identify with Charlie Barton. He and his wife started and maintained a popular bookstore, The Bridge, in Franklin, Tennessee for thirty years. Then, the “hundred year flood” in 2010 destroyed it all. Nearly every book was ruined. Insurance didn't begin to cover the cost of reopening. He's behind in his lease. He's behind in his house payments. No banks will loan him money. His faith in God has sunk to a dangerous low. Afraid he will lose it all, his thoughts turn to suicide.
Molly and Ryan were students at a nearby college and frequented The Bridge. It was their favorite place to study and talk. There might have been a romance between the good friends, but both had someone back home they were supposed to marry. Seven years ago they went their separate ways. Ryan stayed in Franklin but Molly returned to the west coast. Neither one knows that the other's marriage never took place. Nor can either of them forget what might have been.
Charlie, Ryan and Molly. Each of them is in need of a miracle. But then, God is in the miracle business.

I really liked this book. It is a great holiday read. Having been a bookstore owner, I know Karen nailed Charlie's character. And who wouldn't fall in love with Molly and Ryan? During college they were both so faithful to the one waiting for them back home. Your heart aches knowing that they really belong together but the circumstances seem to make it impossible.

There are no deep psychological themes here. No complex plots. Just giving and loving people who need others to help them along. This is a wonderful and heartwarming novel for your holiday season.

Karen Kingsbury is a USA Today and New York Times bestselling author. There are more than 20 million of her award-winning books in print. She has written more than fifty novels. She lives in Tennessee with her husband. Find out more at You can follow her on Twitter, @KarenKingsbury and Facebook, AuthorKarenKingsbury.

Howard Books (a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.), 232 pages.

Go to the publisher's product page to watch a video, read a chapter, and hear an excerpt from the audio book.

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

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Spirit Well by Stephen R. Lawhead

In this third book in the series, the search for the skin map and its meaning continues. Kit is in a Stone Age setting and has happened upon what he thinks is the Spirit Well. Mina continues her prosperous coffee house in Prague. She also manages to find another traveler, Brother Lazarus, a monk in a Spanish monastery.
And a new character enters the quest. Cass, a palaeontologist in Arizona, accidentally follows a native American worker through a ley travel experience. She later returns and travels again. It appears she will be an essential character in future segments of this series.

This book does not have the action the previous books have. This installment is quite informative, however. Cass comes across a society of ley travelers. Much is explained to her and we readers get in on the information.
We find out that there is a far greater purpose to this quest than just finding the skin map. God has a purpose for his creation. It will all come together in the future, at a time of final consummation.
But there are those opposing the plan of God. Their evil forces are becoming formidable. Time may be getting short.

I was pleased to read the explanation of the quest for the skin map. A Christian theme of good and evil in a battle of cosmic proportions is becoming more evident. While Kit and Mina do not seem to yet have any Christian motivation to their actions (so to speak), there are others who have been a part of this journey for a long time and who do have a distinct Christian understanding of what is going on.

I felt this volume in the series was slow moving. It wasn't until the second half of the book that I thought I was reading something that was actually moving the story forward. But that second half of the book is worth getting to. It is all starting to come together.

Stephen Lawhead is an author of mythic history and imaginative fiction. He and his wife make their home in Oxford, England. Find out more at and follow him on his Facebook page.

Thomas Nelson Publishers, 377 pages.
You can buy the book here

I am participating in a blog tour of this book. You will find the links below to the reviews of the others on this tour.

Jim Armstrong Julie Bihn Red Bissell Jennifer Bogart Thomas Clayton Booher Thomas Fletcher Booher Beckie Burnham Brenda Castro Jeff Chapman Christine Karri Compton Theresa Dunlap Emmalyn Edwards April Erwin Victor Gentile Jeremy Harder Bruce Hennigan Timothy Hicks Janeen Ippolito Becca Johnson Jason Joyner Carol Keen Emileigh Latham Rebekah Loper Shannon McDermott Meagan @ Blooming with Books Rebecca LuElla Miller Anna Mittower Lyn Perry Nathan Reimer Chawna Schroeder Rachel Starr Thomson Robert Treskillard Steve Trower Dona Watson Shane Werlinger Phyllis Wheeler

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Practicing the Presence of Jesus by Wally Armstrong

Jesus Christ is the greatest thing that could ever happen to you. Yet there is a gift often laid aside by modern Christians – the gift of the offer from Jesus to become his friend.
Perhaps you are like Wally, trying in his own strength to be more Christlike. He realized one day that Jesus was beside him offering the transforming gift of friendship.
“We have missed the gift of simple friendship, even though that friendship was the first thing Jesus offered his disciples before he ever taught them to minister or schooled them in theology.” (30)
Wally says this important step of accepting Jesus as friend is the foundation of discipleship. He refers to the impact of Weatherhead's book, The Transforming Friendship.
Wally writes about the “exercise of imagination” by which one may “grow into a faith in Christ's intimate presence” that is “strong and unshakable.” (38) He envisioned Jesus beside him. He began to read the Bible with Jesus sitting beside him. It may seem awkward at first, Wally admits, but the more you envision Jesus the more natural the friendship becomes.

Wally shares his own journey, his ups and downs in living in friendship with Jesus. He waited nine years to write this book. He wanted to make sure what he was experiencing was consistent with the Scripture and the testimonies of other believers. He points out that he means no irreverence to Jesus and does not want to downplay Jesus, King and Ruler of the universe. (84)

Jesus does want to speak to you, Wally says. “We simply need to take the time to listen.” (44) He invites you to participate in cultivating a faith-filled imagination. “There is always more to see and more to learn of Jesus.” (81)

You can find out more at You can watch a video and read a sample chapter. (The site does appear a bit dated.)

Wally Armstrong competed in over 300 PGA Tour events, including the British Open, the US Open, and the Masters, and was awarded a lifetime membership in the Tour. He is the author of seven books. He and his wife of forty one years live in Maitland, Florida. They have three children and seven grandchildren.

Summerside Press, 112 pages.

Please visit your local Christian bookstore to purchase this book.

I am participating in a blog tour of this book. You can see the reviews of other tour participants here.

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

Saturday, October 20, 2012

God's Love by R. C. Sproul

This book was originally titled Loved by God, published in 2001 (Word Publishing). The book provides vignettes of God's love and how it relates to his other attributes.
Sproul notes that if we do not get God's love right, we will fail to have a sound understanding of Him. Scripture tells us, “God is love.” All genuine love proceeds from God and is rooted in Him. In people, this love is found only in the regenerated.
Sproul is quick to acknowledge that anything we say about God will be said anthropomorphically. Whatever God's love is, it transcends our best efforts to describe it.
Sproul writes about what it means that God's love is holy. He investigates God's love as seen in the Old Testament and as shown through His Son. He explains the loyal love of God, God's faithful love, God's hatred, and God's unconditional love (not universalism).
He explains the relationship of God's love to His electing grace, as well as God's sovereignty. (He critiques the prescient view.) He discusses the order of salvation, and the Augustinian and semi-Pelagian views of election. He covers the threefold love of God: benevolence, beneficence, complacency.
He lastly discusses agape as is it to be shown by the believer, concentrating on 1 Corinthians 13.

This is pure R. C. Sproul. He writes with theological clarity and conviction. It is also pure Calvinism.
There is lots of theology in this book that some might find a little difficult. Nonetheless, this is a great explanation of God's love and how it relates to election. With Calvinism on the rise, this a good book for a new generation of believers.

R. C. Sproul is the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education ministry based near Orlando, Florida. He also serves as senior minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew's, a reformed congregation in Sanford, Florida, and as the president of Reformation Bible College. He is the author of more than eighty books. Dr. Sproul and his wife make their home in Longwood, Florida.

David C. Cook, 256 pages.  Publisher's product page

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

Friday, October 19, 2012

Guest Post: Interview with Daniel Darling

You talk extensively in your book about "2nd Generation" Christians. What exactly is a "2nd Generation Christian? 

I define a "2nd Generation" Christian as any follower of Christ who grew up in the evangelical faith.  They may have a heritage of faith that stretches back one generation or several generations.
1st Generation Christians are those who were converted as adults and who did not enjoy a childhood immersed in the faith.

Lots of people are talking about the exodus of young people from the church. Some blame the church. Many blame parents. Some blame the culture. But you say that the reason could be a built-in set of faith struggles. Can you explain? 

Yes, there is a lot of angst today in the church about the exodus of kids leaving after high-school.  There is a ton of research that says this is a problem, though Bradley Wright's analysis of the research shows that perhaps some of this is alarmism.

Either way, there is a concern.  And all kinds of prescriptions have been given, from all sides, on ways to stem the tide.  Less entertainment, more entertainment.  Less politics, more politics.  Less depth.  More depth.

There is truth in all of these solutions.  But I think the problem goes deeper.  I think there is a natural tendency to rebel among those who grow up in the church.  It reflects the heart's desire to push off against what we know to be right and true.

Part of our frustration is that we've adopted a humanistic, "assembly line" approach, where we honestly think that if we just tweak the child-training and discipleship systems, we'll eliminate the natural tendency for kids to rebel.  But it's a flawed premise.

You say that Christians who grow up in church need to reacquaint themselves with the "dusty doctrine" of original sin. Why is this so important, especially for 2nd Generation Christians? 

No evangelical worth his salt would deny the doctrine of original sin.  It's in all of our creedal statements.  And yet, when you grow up in the church and find that you struggle, wrestle with temptation, you are surprised.  And your parents are surprised.  And your teachers are surprised.  You hear things like, "After all you've learned, how can you do this?"

The answer to that question is, of course, simple.  "I'm a sinner." The truth is that even kids who grow up in good, Christian homes and are surrounded by healthy Christian community will still wrestle with sin.

What words would you say to the young Christian who is turned off by his church experience and considering abandoning God altogether?

I would tell him to strip away all the "stuff" that seems to be holding you back and explore the truth claims of Jesus for yourself.  Study the Bible without the filter of your experience.  And, be careful nor to push off so strongly against your heritage that you lose what was good and wholesome and true.

Honestly, there are few Christians who grew up in what we would call healthy spiritual environments.  And for sure, none are perfect.  What we are dealing with, at best, are flawed parents, flawed educators, flawed spiritual leaders.  Some are more helpful than others. Some are toxic.  But in all of this, we have to believe that God was sovereign in where he placed us.

And, at the end of your days, you will stand naked before a righteous God.  You will give account and you won't be allowed to blame your childhood.  

 What advice would you give parents, educators, teachers, pastors to help stem the tide of kids leaving the church?

I would say two things. First, disabuse yourself of the unhealthy pressure to "produce" perfect kids. Proverbs 22:6 is a proverb, not a command or a promise.  It is the Holy Spirit who produces fruit in the life of children.  Your job is simply be faithful and to be as real as you can be.

Secondly, I would ask yourself what exactly is it that we want to pass down? And my answer would be simply this: the faith. No more, no less. Sometimes we make good, but not great things ultimate.  We don't celebrate the gospel, we celebrate preference and musical style and denomination and in doing so, we lose the gospel.

I'm fairly certain my kids will worship differently than I worship today.  Their churches may look and sound differently.  I need to be okay with that, as long as they have the faith, the powerful set of orthodox truths that frame the good news of the gospel.

Thanks to Daniel Darling and The Vessel Project for this guest post interview.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Where the Trail Ends by Melanie Dobson

Melanie's book portrays a group of Americans traveling West in 1842 over what came to be known as The Oregon Trail. They were some of the first. In 1843, Melanie says in her Author Notes, more than nine hundred men, women, and children emigrated in what is now known as “the Great Migration.” “During the next twenty years, approximately three hundred thousand Americans traveled West on the Oregon Trail.” (327)

Where the Trail Ends is a great historical novel. Melanie has done her research and portrays what it was like to travel West before The Oregon Trail was well established. The wagon trails were run like a democracy with an elected train leader and a list of rules.
The novel follows eighteen year old Samantha, her young brother Micah, their father, and the family's wolfhound Boaz. The father had planned the trip West for their mother as it was thought the western location would be better for her illness but the trip came to late. It would be two thousand miles from their Ohio home to the Willamette Valley. Two thousand miles of hardship.
Interspersed with Samantha's story is that of Alexander Clarke in Fort Vancouver and an agent of a fur trading company in London. He is getting experience in all aspects of the business as it seems he will soon be running the company. He has a woman of London's society waiting for him back in London – a marriage planned more for social reasons than love.

Melanie has done an excellent job of telling the story of those who came through the mountains, across rivers, through terrible weather, and more, to reach the land they planned to farm. The harsh travel conditions are accurately represented and there is just enough romance to lighten the severity of the story. I highly recommend it.

Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of eleven novels. She won the ACFW Carol Awards for two of her novels. She is the former corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family. Born and raised in the Midwest, she and her husband and their two daughters now live near Portland, Oregon. You can find out more about her at

I am participating in a blog tour of this book and you can read other reviews of this novel here.

Summerside Press, 333 pages.

Please visit your local Christian bookstore to buy this book.

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

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Real: Owning Your Christian Faith by Daniel Darling

I'm a “second generation” Christian. I grew up in church. I struggled with making my parent's faith my own.
Daniel is “second generation” too. In this book he addresses the often misunderstood struggles children of the church face. He desires to light the fuse of dormant faith, to awaken second generation believers to a fresh intimacy with Jesus.
Daniel reminds us we continually need the gospel (we continually sin). He addresses issues like second generation Christians trying to please their spiritual leaders, rebellion against authority, the pride of not rebelling, healing from destructive church experiences, awaking faith within one's soul, being a thinking Christian, parenting and passing on the faith, and training them to live their faith in a sin-soaked world.
Daniel includes in each chapter conversations with second generation Christians. Some are well known names, like Lucado, McDowell, and Blackaby. All of them add their insights to the topic Daniel covers in the chapter.

Daniel knows that second generation Christians cannot survive on their parent's faith. Daniel also knows that many who have grown up in the faith have questions they have long been afraid to voice. He tackles those issues, encouraging second generation Christians to take ownership of their faith.
Every generation needs a fresh encounter with God. Daniel encourages his readers to develop a personal intimacy with God. He gives great advice for doing exactly that.

Every second generation Christian could benefit from reading this book. Daniel understands their situation. Second generation Christians face issues new adult believers would probably never think about.
And their parents should read this book. Christian parents will better understand the struggles their church-going offspring are experiencing.

Daniel Darling is senior pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and is the author of numerous books. He and his wife have four children and reside in the northern suburbs of Chicago. You can find out more about Daniel and follow his blog at

New Hope Publishers, 186 pages.

I am participating in a blog tour. You can find out more about is at The Vessel Project.

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

You Don't Know Me by Susan May Warren

I'd never really thought about it before. Sure, people go into a witness protection program, but how do they live their lives? Do they get married and have kids? Do they tell their spouse who they really are? What is it really like, living a lie?

We find out in Warren's latest book. A new life. A loving husband running for mayor of their town, Deep Haven. Nice kids. Active in the community and well respected.
And then the murderer she had identified as a teen gets out of prison. He had sworn to kill her. All the killer has to do is find her.

Annalise's new life of twenty years is shattered when her witness protection handler arrives to tell her the bad news. Her life is in danger – again. Her family's lives are threatened too. What can she possibly do? How can she possibly tell her family who she really is? Should she run away and leave her family? Should she stay and endanger those she loves?

Susan May Warren has done it again. This is a great novel. The action is tight and continuous, right to the very end. The character development is amazing. I've just never thought about all of the ramifications of witness protection. Do you reveal who who really are before you are engaged? How do you protect your own identity yet form a new life? Warren has done an excellent job of addressing all of these issues.

The themes presented through the novel are thought provoking. When is it right (if ever) to keep the truth from those you love? This theme is presented on several levels, from not telling someone you have cancer to the ultimate secret of new identity. And then how do you respond when you find out the person you have loved for twenty years is someone else?

Warren got the idea for this novel when she was on an airplane sitting next to a mother who was going to say good-bye to her daughter going into witness protection. You can read more of the story at Warren's website.

Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning author of thirty novels. She is a four time Christy award finalist, a two time RITA finalist, a multiple winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award and the ACFW Carol Award. She speaks at women's events and teaches at conferences around the nation. She has written a workbook for beginning writers and is the founder of, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice. Find out more at

I am participating in a blog tour of this book.  You can see other reviews here.

Tyndale House Publishers, 384 pages.  Publisher's product page.

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, October 15, 2012

The Sons of Jude by Brandt Dodson

All is not well in the Chicago Police Department. Andy Polanski blew the whistle on two of his fellow cops for planting evidence. Feelings are running high so Polanski has been transferred to District 28 and made the partner of Frank Campello. Frank is not happy.
The two are called out to investigate the murder of a young woman, her body found in a dumpster at Navy Pier. As Andy and Frank investigate the case, it becomes clear that there is much more going on than the murder. There are powerful people in Chicago politics who want this case dropped, even if they have to kill a cop.

This opening sets the stage for the first novel in a series featuring a fictional Chicago police district and a rotating cast of characters. Polanski is the son of a disgraced Chicago police officer. He is a Christian and is careful to do everything by the book. Campello is more of a live and let live kind of guy when it comes to his life and work. His dad was a cop and the police force is his family.
The novel is pure police procedure. It reminds me of the precinct police novels of a generation ago.
The writing is methodical. The book is not a page turner but is not boring either.
I felt Polanski could have been more clear about his faith early on in the novel. It seems his faith is very important to his actions and more could have been made of that.
There is character development in Frank. He initially saw the police department as his family and had to grow to the point of seeing that members of his family could be corrupt.
If you enjoy reading crime novels about corrupt politics and corrupt police departments, this one is for you.

Watch a video trailer here.

Brandt Dodson is the author of several previous novels and short stories. He comes from a long line of police officers on both sides of the family, going back to the 1930s. He was employed by the Indianapolis office of the FBI and draws on that experience as well as his family background to lend authenticity to his work. He has lived in Chicago and visits the city annually. You can find out more at  

Monarch Books, Kregel Publications, 314 pages.

Publisher's product page.

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