Monday, September 30, 2013

Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung

How in the world did we get so busy?

DeYoung was crazy busy and knew he needed to figure it out and work on change. So he wrote a book on it.

I want to understand what's going on in the world and in my heart to make me feel the way I so. And I also want to understand how to change – even just a little.” (17)

He has three dangers to avoid (ruined joy, robbed heart, sick in spirit and body), seven diagnosis questions to consider (pride, God's expectations, priorities, kids, strangled soul, rest, our expectations). He ends with one thing you must do.

DeYoung admits he doesn't have some five point plan to cure our business. But he does have a one point plan – one thing you must do – that involves devotion to the Word and prayer. “Maybe devotion to Christ really is the one thing that is necessary.” (116)

If you are feeling yourself getting more of other stuff and less of Jesus, you need to read this book. He gives us the tools to look at our own life. DeYoung has suggested we have a hearty suspicion toward technology. We need to make boundaries. We need to bring our Christian theology to bear on the digital age.

Maybe devotion to Christ really is the one thing that is necessary.” (116)

Go to for a free study guide, watch a trailer, and follow tweets on the book.

Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor at University Reformed Church, East Lansing, Michigan.

Crossway Books, 128 pages.

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

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Examine Your Faith by Pamela Christian

Do you want to live your life on the basis of a lie?” Pamela asks. She experienced a crisis of her own faith and realized she was a Christian in name only. She began the process of examining her faith and wants others to do the same. She does not want anyone to come to a test and find their faith faulty. She wants to make sure faith is on a solid foundation and based on truth.

She notes that in her own life she needed to establish a confident conviction of the object of her faith – believing faith. That is what this book is about. She has written it to help others come to faith, faith in Christ.

She establishes the difference between belief and faith. Faith is acting on what we believe. Many people take their beliefs from various religions. She notes the problems with that and the importance of examining personal faith.
She arrives at a definition of sound faith, distinguishes feeling and thinking, explores how truth is determined, and looks at religious pluralism. She provides information about the origin and beliefs of the top six religious belief systems: Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, humanism (including New Age), Islam, and Christianity. She adds personal testimonies of people who practiced them. She looks at evil and how the various religions deal with it, comparing them to Christianity. She then has an extended section on Jesus, predictions of His birth, His ministry, and evidence for His resurrection.

She concludes by encouraging readers to conclude that the Christian faith provides the best possible explanation for our world, the existence of God, the reality of pain and suffering and the conclusion of evil. (191)

This would be a good book to give to a non-Christian who is honestly seeking the truth, especially a person in one of the major religions. Pamela does a fine job of identifying the beliefs of the major religions and showing that Christianity presents the best belief system. I was a bit disappointed in her section on the Distinction of Christianity, such as the various denominations. That topic seems to be a serious deterrent to some believing in Christ.

While not specifically aimed at Christians, this would be a good book to read to gain an overview of the major religions, the ones some of your neighbors may adhere to. It would help you identify issues where you could offer better answers from Christian faith.

Pamela Christian began her ministry as a Teaching Director for Community Bible Study in the 1990s. This was followed by invitations to speak across the country for various organizations, which she continues to do. She initially wrote workbooks for her retreats and conferences. Her writing expanded to book compilations, magazines and several e-books. She has a certificate in apologetics from Biola University and her passion is helping others in matters of faith. She and her husband live in Southern California with their two grown children living nearby. You can find our more about her and her ministry at

WestBow Press, 228 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the author through the Book Group Network for the purpose of this review.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Understanding Islam & Christianity by Josh McDowell and Jim Walker

The authors begin by showing the agreements between Muslims and Christians. They then focus on questions Muslims ask about Christianity (mostly Jesus).

They move to how the two differ over what it means that Jesus is God's Son, answering the Muslim objections. They also look at other titles given to Jesus, including the title “Son of God,” what Jesus meant by it, how the Jews understood it, and why the Muslims reject it. The Quran's teaching on the subject is compared with the Bible. They explore the understanding and history of the Christian's Trinity, revealing the Muslim misunderstanding. They answer Muslim objections to the belief.

Next they address the atonement and the Muslim objections to it. They explore the differences in the understanding of “salvation” by Christians and Muslims. Then they answer the Quran's claim that Jesus was not crucified by examining the evidence from the Old Testament, Quran, New Testament, historians, and medicine.

The Muslim claims that the Bible predicted Muhammad are investigated, both the “counselor” Jesus foretold and the “prophet” Moses foretold. Both ideas are soundly defeated.

Then the authors address the Muslim claim that the Bible has been “corrupted.” (I don't understand why this wasn't the first topic covered. The authors admit that the use of the New Testament in proving answers to previous issues relies on its reliability. (183) So why not prove its reliability before using it as proof?) They also clarify how the New Testament Canon was determined. (This is McDowell's expertise and it shows. Fifty pages of the book are given to this topic.)

Next is an evaluation of the Quran. They note, “Muslims believe that the Quran in their hands today is a copy of the heavenly Quran. It is eternal, uncreated, an attribute of Allah.” (235) They then give evidence to show that the Quran is, in fact, the creation of men. They also show how the truth of the Bible is confirmed in the Quran. This is followed by an evaluation of Muhammad's life.

I am not sure of the value of this book. For a Muslim to read it, or for a Christian to use it in dialog with a Muslim, the Muslim would have to accept the Bible as accurate. The authors themselves admit, “Most sincere Muslims we've met and with whom we have discussed this topic [of the crucifixion] are adamant in insisting that Jesus was not crucified and for the most part disregard any evidence that says otherwise. We can understand that mentality when one believes the Quran is from God and is afraid to question his own faith.” (132) My understanding is that Muslims believe the Christian Bible has been “corrupted” and the Quran corrects it. The authors do show that the Bible is affirmed by the Quran, but that is at the end of the book, not the beginning.

The scope of this book is limited. There is nothing about heaven, how non-Muslims live in a Muslim society, jihad, etc. This book basically covers the persons of Jesus and Muhammad. I think the title is a bit of a misnomer.

The authors freely quote other sources, lots of other sources, and at length. So if you've read much on the topic, this book may not contain new information for you. This book would serve as a limited introduction to a comparison of Islam and Christianity, specific to a few topics.

Josh McDowell accepted the challenge to investigate the claims of Christianity while a college student. He committed his life to Christ and for 50 years he has been sharing his testimony and evidence that God is real and relevant to our lives. He received a bachelor's degree from Wheaton College and a master's degree in theology from Talbot Theological Seminary. He has been on staff with Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) for almost 50 years. He and his wife have four grown children and five grandchildren. They live in Southern California.
Jim Walker has been involved in Islamic ministry and research for over 20 years. He has taught numerous seminars for Christians interested in learning about Muslims' faith.

Harvest House Publishers, 304 pages.

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

Friday, September 27, 2013

Shattered by Rita A. Schulte

Do you bottle up your hurt and grief? Have you refused to talk about it? “Yet we must tell the story to walk the healing path,” Rita writes. (16) She has written this book to help you do that very thing.

Jesus said that a seed must die to bring new life. Rita says God works that way in our lives too. “Brokenness is not only a necessary process in the life of the believer – it is a gift.” (19) As she experienced loss she first protested, but then began to trust God. She began to see pain and loss in a new light, part of the process of shaping and molding character. She began to see a greater purpose – the journey.

Rita has focused her book on the heart and the phases it must go through in this journey. She helps us develop an awareness of the heart, learning to notice it. She helps us crack the shell we placed around it, exploring our brokenness and exposing our wounds. Then our heart can be revived by Christ's healing power.

She has divided her book into three parts. 1) Identify losses, their effect on our heart, our defenses, our concept of God. 2) We are helped through the healing tasks and we deal with anger, forgiveness and surrender. 3) We rekindle our desires, investing them in God's greater story.

This is a book to experience. Rita takes us through exercises as we work through all those phases I listed. I was really impressed with her section on anger and forgiveness. And her “Taking It to the Cross” chapter was so convicting.

Rita does not write from a theoretical place. As she shares her experiences, she writes about the lessons she has learned herself.

This is a great book for you if you know you have loss or pain that is preventing you from living the life God intended. Working through the exercises Rita gives will definitely help you heal. She encouraged me, reminding me that God is right in it with me. “...God is not about wasting the stories of our lives – our losses.” (11) “Our pain is given meaning because we don't experience it in isolation; we share it in relationship with Christ.” (54)

Rita A. Schulte is a licensed professional counselor in the Northern Virginia/DC area. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and a Master's in Counseling from Liberty University. She is the host of Heartline Podcast and Consider This radio programs. Her show airs on several radio stations, as well as on the Internet. She writes for numerous publications and blogs. Find our more at

Leafwood Publishers, 236 pages.

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

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Chasing Hope by Kathryn Cushman

This is an amazing novel. Every once and a while, when I finish a book, I sigh, and wish all novels were this good.

Sabrina's hero was Eric Liddell – ever since she saw the movie as a kid. She would be a gold winning runner and share Christ. But then her dreams came crashing down when she experienced a debilitating disease and could no longer run. Her athletic scholarship went away her freshman year at university. But she could change her dream. She was convinced she could.

One day while studying, she saw a teen gal running across campus, faster than anyone she'd seen for a while. Chugging behind her was the campus police.

Sabrina met the female gazelle a few days later when their grandmothers had arranged a dinner together. Brandy was her name and she needed help. She had gotten herself into trouble one too many times and was heading for juvie – unless, unless Sabrina would help her train and get on the high school's track team.

This is a great novel. Five stars twice over. The characters are portrayed well. I hurt with Sabrina as she tried so hard to help Brandy do what Sabrina could no longer do herself. And I was right along with Brandy, struggling to overcome her past.

The story is so good. There is the dream and then the tragedy of unfulfilled dreams. There is the opportunity to help another. There is a great guy who is willing to see through Sabrina's protective shell to find the real girl. There are the loving grandmas who know just how to say the right things to urge their granddaughters to be their best. And there is trusting God throughout.

I always like to learn something when I read a novel. And I did in this one. Sabrina has a couple of medical conditions and it was very interesting to read about them and the treatments too.

I loved this novel. It is excellent.

Kathryn Cushman is a graduate of Samford University with a degree in pharmacy, She is the author of five previous novels, two of which were finalists for the Carol Award in Women's Fiction. Kathryn and her family live in Santa Barbara, California. Find out more at

Bethany House Publishers, 321 pages.

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

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Discover Together Ephesians: Sit and Pray, Eph. 1:15-23

God asks us to live in a constant attitude of prayer. We are to include God in our inner conversations of our hearts and minds all day long, Edwards says.

You might want to think of your own prayer life. Do you have that constant attitude of prayer? If not, how can you cultivate it?

Paul's first prayer in this epistle is in our reading today (Eph. 1:17-19). Look over his prayer and consider what he prays would be true of the Ephesians. Compare that to your own experience and to how you pray for others. Sometimes reading the prayers of Paul, and other Bible characters, helps us put our own prayer life in perspective.

Another aspect of this passage Edwards highlights in her video is the power we have for daily living (Eph. 119). It is incomparably great. It is so great that Paul uses four different Greek terms to describe it, terms related to dynamite, energy, mighty, and strong. This power was great enough to raise Christ from the dead. It is the kind of power we can see in our own life – power to overcome, to persevere, to love.

How do we access that power? By knowing God (Eph. 1:17b). The Greek word Paul uses for “know” means a “close” knowing. We have to know God through experience. And that brings us back to sitting in His presence and to prayer. We rest in Him, talk to Him and listen to Him all during the day.

Watch the lesson 2 video by Sue Edwards here.

You find out more about the study series at and see the video clips at You can follow the discussion on Facebook at

My comments on the Introduction and Lesson One.

Sue Edwards is an associate professor of Christian education at Dallas Theological Seminary. She brings over thirty years of experience to the classroom as a Bible teacher, curriculum writer, and overseer of several women's ministries. She is the author or co-author of several books. She has a D.Min. From Gordon-Conwell theological Seminary and a master's in Bible from Dallas Theological Seminary. She and her husband have been married for forty years, have two married daughters and five grandchildren.

Kregel Publications, 127 pages. See the publisher's product page for more information about the book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Open Book Promotion for the purpose of blogging this study.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

You Can't Hide by Wendy Davy

This little novel is a quick and satisfying read. Carla has gotten herself into trouble by making a secret trip to Colombia to see her twin brother Jonas. She wanted to surprise him on his mission trip. But his was no church mission trip. Carla came close to seeing a drug lord murder a rival and now she is in danger.

Back in the United States, Jonas engages his friend, Gage, to protect Carla. Gage had been wounded on the recent undercover operation and was recuperating on Cedar Island on the Eastern Shore.

The relationship between Carla and Gage starts out with barbs but soon develops into attraction. The entire situation gets serious as Jonas is himself captured back in Colombia and the drug lord finds out Carla's identity.

This is a short novel. Davy has not padded the book with unneeded words. I would liked a little more description, or perhaps a line drawn map of the island, however. I had trouble at the very end picturing the action. And the romance was quick, very quick. That aspect of the novel could have been enhanced, with Carla and Gage working through some issues.

Wendy Davy is an award winning romance author. You can find out more about her and her books at

White Rose Publishing, 168 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author through the Book Group network for the purpose of this review.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Trapped by Irene Hannon

The plot is common. A teen runs away and gets into trouble. But Hannon adds enough action and interesting subplots that the book was a page turner.

Sixteen year old Darcy has just lost her remaining parent so she is forced to live with her older half-sister. Much to Darcy's dismay, her half-sister, Laura, aims to reign in the freedom she's had as her father was ailing. Convinced Laura doesn't like her and doesn't want her living with her, Darcy runs away. She doesn't get far, however, as a serious snow storm has shut down the buses. She and a wandering girl she meets end up in a homeless shelter. The girls are befriended by a man who volunteers there and invites them to his house. Within a few days, Darcy's friend has disappeared and Darcy is being held captive in the man's basement. Laura is beside herself and hires a PI firm to find Darcy.

So that is the plot. It is not that unusual but there is a twist as to why the man keeps Darcy trapped. His aim is not to harm her but to ... well, you have to read the book. And there is a little bit of romance brewing between Laura and the PI. They both try to focus on finding Darcy, keeping their growing feelings in check. The end of the book is very suspenseful and will keep you turning pages.

Irene Hannon is the best-selling author of more than forty novels. She has received two RITA Awards, a Carol Award, and a Daphne du Maurier Award. You can find out more at

Revell, 401 pages.

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

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Worship Walk by Gareth Goossen

What comes to mind when you think of worship? That hour on Sunday morning? Is it the music over which we've had “worship wars”?

True worship goes much beyond that. Goossen argues that our worship should be our entire life. He invites us to a walk of worship. True worshipers make every effort to engage with Jesus at all times and everywhere.

He reminds us of the cost of worship – totally focusing on God, and the sacrifice of worship – always placing Jesus at the center.

He explores all the ways we worship God in the broader context of life: silence, asking, listening to the Holy Spirit, confession, proclaiming, recognizing God's image in creation, prayer, humility, gratitude, extravagance, using spiritual gifts, and suffering. He gives practical suggestions on how to do each aspect of worship too.

He suggests a daily prayer: “Lord, in my worship of you today in whatever I am doing, help me to allow you to shape me in your image so that I might be an extension of your presence and an encouragement to one other person.” (85)

There is so much in this book that strikes at the heart of the Christian. We were made to worship God. Reading this book certainly helped me understand what that means. If you desire to experience worship as a lifestyle, this is the book for you.

I'll leave you with this question Goossen asks, “Is God our goal? Is the essence of our lives and our lifestyles designed to be, like Paul encourages, so that we may 'know' Christ better?” (157) Does worship encompass all of your life?

Gareth Goossen is the executive director of Make Us Holy ministries. He has a Master of Arts in New Testament theology from the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary and has been an associate pastor in two Canadian Mennonite Brethren churches. He has been leading corporate worship since 1986. He organized Make Us Holy in 1993, resigning his associate pastor position in 1994. He travels in North America and Latin America encouraging churches in their worship. He is broadening his ministry, teaching the broader church about a passionate pursuit of Jesus in a daily walk of worship. Gareth and his wive have three adult children, three grandchildren, and live in Breslau, Ontario. You can find out more at

Westbow Press, 276 pages.

I received a complimentary galley of this book from the author through the Book Group Network for the purpose of this review.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Truth Seekers: The Machine by Bill Myers

What a fun novel for kids ages 10-14. It has lots of amazing machines, like a 0.3 mm robot. It has lots of interesting scientific facts. Did you know that people lose some 30,000 to 40,000 skin cells a minute and those cells are what bloodhounds smell when they track people? And it has lots of kid humor (groan). It has spiritual elements too. Demons make their shady appearance from time to time. It's only detraction is that the kids do some deeds I question (see below).

The story involves Jake and Jennifer, the seventh grade twin kids of Dr. Mackenzie, a brilliant and quirky scientist who sometimes forgets he even has kids. Jen and Jake have lived most of their lives with their mother and an absent father. He was always off working on some amazing scientific endeavor. But their mother unexpectedly died recently and the kids are with their dad in the Holy Land. He has invented The Machine, a device that creates such super-realistic holographs of Bible times you think you are there. But there is someone trying to sabotage Mackenzie's work and the kids are right in the middle of the trouble.

There are some character lessons the twins learn in this story. They try hard to love a father they hardly know. Jen has to get over her fear of the demons and learn to take authority over them. Their father has to learn what it means to be one. And some of those working with the Dr. are Arabs and Israelis – they have to learn to get along.

I do not like that the twins participate in some illegal stuff, like breaking into a jail (busting down a door) and swiping a woman's wig. Granted, it is for a worthy cause, it seems (to get their father's machine running, or funded). But there is no remorse shown for those deeds, and that bothers me.

Except for the twins doing some illegal stuff, this is a pretty good book for kids. It is a great adventure and there are some Christian principles to learn too. There are a couple of pages at the end helping parents use this book, the lesson on trusting God. I would have been happier to see some questions about evaluating the actions of the twins. There should be a lesson there too.

Bill Myers is an award-winning writer/director whose work has won over sixty national and international awards. He has written several best-selling series for kids. He has sold over eight million books and videos. Bill and his wife, two cats and two kids, live near Hollywood, California. Find out more at

B&H Kids, 230 pages.

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

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Kneeling Warrior by David D. Ireland

Do you want to be trained in the art of spiritual warfare? Do you want to regain what the enemy has stolen from you?

If so, Ireland has written this book for you. His primary intention is to equip you to put your faith in action and help you adopt a biblical mind-set regarding spiritual warfare. Reading this book, he says, is taking a step toward taking a stand to secure what God has promised you.

The book follows an outline from the life of David: engage your feelings, engage your faith, engage in the fight.
Engage your feelings: you must have a passionate reason to fight. Perhaps it is an experience of loss or the threat of it. Ireland helps you become equipped and skilled, suggesting a prayer regimen (time, place, agenda).
Engage your faith: like biblical characters, you wrestle the forces of evil. You learn how to use defensive weapons, then offensive ones (some of the latter were a surprise, such as tithing). He has a great section on prevailing prayer. He writes about encountering resistance to executing the will of God, using spiritual and natural action.
Engage in the fight: keeping in top shape by practicing spiritual disciples. He suggests corporate prayer and prayer of agreement. He explores intercession, spiritual representation and advocacy. He also explains how to know the subject of your intercession. He encourages you to be a legacy maker.

Ireland is quick to point out that this is not a name-it-and-claim-it kind of book. The emphasis is finding out what God wants to do, or has promised to do, then moving in that direction. He deals with “unanswered” prayer too. He gives lots of examples of prayer, from his life, others, and from the Bible.

As a young Christian, I was steeped in the sovereignty of God. I do not feel Ireland addresses sufficiently how God's sovereignty and prayer work together. For example, he writes, “Satan has no legal right to touch you if you're walking in total submission to God and His will for your life. … Submission means total surrender and compliance to God's desires and direction for your life. When you strap this defensive weapon to your life, there is nothing Satan can do to hurt you.” (91) I am not sure any individual (other than Jesus in the flesh) has actually ever been in total submission and compliance. And then there is Job, who was “blameless and upright” yet experienced tremendous disaster. And there was the fellow in John 9 who was blind, not because of anything humans had done, but for God's glory. I just don't think we can guarantee, under any circumstances, the kind of promise Ireland made. God is still sovereign.

That issue aside, this is a good book on being a prayer warrior. I learned a great deal from it. I really liked his prayer agenda (all the “p” words) and will be implementing it myself. Ireland writes, “The Bible is clear on God's call for all believers to become kneeling warriors.” (26) This book is a good place to learn how to be exactly that.

David D. Ireland, PhD, is the founding and senior pastor of Christ Church, a 6,000 member multiracial congregation in New Jersey. He is the diversity consultant to the NBA, hosts seminars on diversity, leadership, and prayer and is the author of numerous books. He and his wife have been married for nearly thirty years and have two adult daughters.

Charisma House, 216 pages.

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

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Vanishing Evangelical by Calvin Miller

Evangelicalism is a term defined various ways so Miller starts there. He includes those who have a personal faith in Jesus Christ and believe in His atoning sacrifice, miracles, virgin birth, resurrection, second coming, and the doctrine of redemption.

He is clear that this book is about American evangelicalism. He writes that it is in decline, lethargic and with insipid faith. The constants are gone, he says. “The problem is that the Bible is no longer the agreed-upon centerpiece of evangelical thought.” (25)

He analyzes the demise: He explores the effect of the mega-church and major ideologies on the church. We have dropped the way of life that valued devout worship. We have lost our influence on the arts. He writes, “That loss of power to influence is the force behind the decline [of worship].” (56) He comments on missions and postdenominationalism. He explains the dilution of core beliefs and reflects on the effect of computers on the church. He looks at copycat worship and sermons and computer driven faith. “The evangelical world is flat, and we are vanishing partly because its flatness is universally dull and uninteresting.” (104) He comments on anti-intellectualism and the dumbing down of evangelicals: “Evangelicals are dumbing down at twice the rate of non-Christians.” (132) He notes a similar attitude toward the arts. He calls for a marriage of mind and heart, of knowledge and passion. He shows where the secular age has triumphed over the Christian world and the growth of the secular culture, such as our addiction to materialism. He reveals how we have whitewashed secular movements and Christianized them, thinking we are creative.

If our way of life is to remain on the earth, there must be a renaissance of biblical values, and a re-education of Christian youth that will stabilize the covenant faith of their parents. This is not a renaissance that we can muddle through, slowing the preservation of our way of life. The day is late. The time to begin is now.” (161)

In the final chapters of the book, Miller sketches a plan for individual survival. He writes, “I say individual because I hold not the slightest hope for the triumph of the entire faith.” (191) To try to preserve the evangelical movement is pointless, Miller argues. “Each of us – one by one – must seek our own individual vitality.” (196) The way to save the whole is to focus on the parts. Yet we are not to give up hope. Don't forget, God made the dry bones live.

As a retired Christian bookseller who has watched the evangelical church since the mid 70s, I agree with Miller. The evangelical demise is real and observable. I also agree with Miller in that the hope for the future rests with each individual Christian. He has great suggestions as how we can restore vitality to our own faith. Yes, we need revival and, yes, it must start with each of us.

Calvin Miller died in August of 2012 at the age of 75. He had been a research professor of divinity and distinguished writer in residence at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama since 2007. He had written more than 40 books. He was a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Midwestern Theological Seminary. For 25 years he was pastor of Westside Church in Omaha, Nebraska. From 1991 to 1998 he was professor of communication and ministry studies and writer-in-residence at Southwestern Baptist theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

Baker Books, 240 pages. Publisher's product page.

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Discover Together Ephesians: Learn to Sit, Eph. 1:1-14

In lesson 1 of this study we Learn to Sit. If we have accepted Christ as our Savior, we are seated with Him in the heavenly realm. (Eph. 2:6) We have spiritual blessings now because of our position in Christ in heaven. (Eph. 1:3) What a challenge to understand these truths and live in them! Edwards encourages to learn to sit - learn what it means to be seated with Christ in the heavenly realms. This is the first and necessary posture of the Christian life she says. When we see ourselves this way, everything else changes.

Can you imagine what it must have been like for the Christian Ephesians to hear this news? They were surrounded by pagan worship and occult practices. It may be just as shocking to us, surrounded by depressing news broadcasts and raunchy television shows. But it is the way God sees us right now. Spend some time thinking about what that means in your daily life. In fact, you might want to memorize Ephesians 1:3 (as Edwards suggests).

And there is even more good news! We have been chosen to belong to God! (Eph. 1:4a) Can you imagine that? Even before God created the world He was thinking about us. And we have been adopted into Christ! (Eph.1:5) And it is a done deal. We've been sealed! (Eph. 1:13)

As you go through your day and your week, think about who you are in Christ. Think about being seated in heavenly places, being chosen, being adopted, being sealed. And then think about what that means as you go about living your daily life.

Thank God for blessing us in Christ!

Watch the lesson 1 video by Sue Edwards here.

You find out more about the study series at and see the video clips at You can follow the discussion on Facebook at

See my introductory lesson blog at

Sue Edwards is an associate professor of Christian education at Dallas Theological Seminary. She brings over thirty years of experience to the classroom as a Bible teacher, curriculum writer, and overseer of several women's ministries. She is the author or co-author of several books. She has a D.Min. From Gordon-Conwell theological Seminary and a master's in Bible from Dallas Theological Seminary. She and her husband have been married for forty years, have two married daughters and five grandchildren.

Kregel Publications, 127 pages. See the publisher's product page for more information about the book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Open Book Promotion for the purpose of blogging this study.

Discover Together Ephesians: Introduction

For the next nine Wednesdays I'll be blogging through the Discover Together study on Ephesians by Sue Edwards. I'll include a link to her short video clip and then add some of my own reflections on the study. You can follow The Discover Series on Facebook and find out what other study participants are say. (

Edwards starts off the study this week with an introduction to Ephesians. It is a spiritual warfare manual showing how to live in a world system opposed to God. Ephesians is good for new believers for it shows them the basics of the Christian walk. But it is good for seasoned believers too as it has deep truths explained like nowhere else in Scripture.

The Ephesian church was only six years old. The city was the center of Artemis worship, the Temple of Artemis being one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The Ephesian Christians lived in the Roman center of the occult and magical arts. They needed to learn how to live victoriously, and so can we.

Edwards divides Ephesians into three sections (as did Watchman Nee): sit, walk, stand. Next Wednesday I'll blog insights from Lesson 1 on Ephesians 1:1-14.

Watch the introductory video by Sue Edwards here.

You find out more about the study series at and see the video clips at

Sue Edwards is an associate professor of Christian education at Dallas Theological Seminary. She brings over thirty years of experience to the classroom as a Bible teacher, curriculum writer, and overseer of several women's ministries. She is the author or co-author of several books. She has a D.Min. From Gordon-Conwell theological Seminary and a master's in Bible from Dallas Theological Seminary. She and her husband have been married for forty years, have two married daughters and five grandchildren.

Kregel Publications, 127 pages. See the publisher's product page for more information about the book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Open Book Promotion for the purpose of blogging this study.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

An Accidental Life by Pamela Binnings Ewen

It is 1982 New Orleans. Women can do just about anything they want, including breaking into all kinds of careers. And they don't have to worry about a baby getting in the way - it has been nine years since Roe v. Wade.

Ewen has created a great juxtaposition of two pregnant women. Rebecca has just become one of the two first women partners in a prestigious law firm when she finds out she is pregnant. When she tells Peter, a senior prosecutor, he is overjoyed. But she wonders how she will continue her work in the law firm.

Teen-aged Glory Lynn has come into a women's clinic for an abortion. She had hopes of marrying the man but he has left her alone. She knows her life would be ruined with a baby. She's waited until her twenty second week, or maybe twenty third.

The abortion goes bad when there is a life birth. When the mother hears the baby cry, her life is changed. She wants her baby – alive. But the doctor instructs the nurse to take the baby away, to a utility room to die. Glory Lynn goes to the authorities asking that charges be brought against the doctor. Peter is given the case to prosecute and he decides to go for second degree murder.

The first half of the novel was slow. But the second half is a page turner. The novel centers around the live birth and the charge brought against the abortion doctor. A live birth was not something addressed by Roe v. Wade so we don't know how the trial will come out. I did feel that the law firm making so many allowances for Rebecca's pregnancy was unrealistic, considering other legal thrillers I've read.

In the Author's Notes, Ewen says there are thousands of infants alive today who have survived abortions. She includes testimony of a registered nurse given to a House committee in 2001. Although a federal law was passed (covering federal hospitals) and several states have passed laws protecting infants of live birth, it remains an ongoing horror.

This is a good novel, refreshing our minds again of the issues surrounding abortion.

Pamela Ewen practiced law for twenty-five years before penning novels. Her novel The Moon in the Mango Tree won the Eudora Welty memorial Award in the 2012 Biennial Letters competition. Her third novel, Dancing on Glass, won the 2012 Single titles Reviewers Choice Award and was a Christy Award finalist. She lives near New Orleans, Louisiana. You can find out more at

B & H Books, 368 pages.

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

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Letter to Evan by Roy Page with Sarah Horton

Life was good for Roy Page. Then he lost his father to Alzheimer's, his marriage of twenty years fell apart, and his business took an economic downturn. Then his son had an injury that had the potential to destroy his baseball career. While his son was in recovery from the surgery, Roy took time to be with him and to contemplate fatherhood and his own life. He decided to write Evan a letter.

He gives the letter at the beginning of the book and then writes about each of the sections. “The contents are my heart, my soul, and my story.” (5) He reflects on his own life, Evan's life, growing up in church, his strong faith, Evan's athletic experiences, and he parallels Evan's healing from surgery with his own healing from divorce.

Roy admits that part of the reason for writing the letter was to heal his own pain. “...[I]t provided a platform for my own healing and recovery...” (27) He is very open and honest about his own mistakes and living through the consequences.

He says of the trial he has been through and his life now, “My purpose is to use my gift of creativity, my spiritual gift of faith, and my entrepreneurialism to inspire people to be the best they can be. I would never have developed this renewed purpose if not for this trial in my life.” (109) He believes, “this book is a part of God's purpose to give hope and encouragement to His children, who He loves, who are experiencing the same pain I have endured.” (150-1)

Roy's healing may not be what most people experience because he had a personal counselor and an executive coach to help him along. He notes several times the progress he made only because of their influence on him. He admits that he has been blessed beyond measure knowing that most people who experience divorce do not have such advantages.

This is an encouraging book for fathers, especially fathers who have made mistakes in their marriage and parenting roles. While Roy had a great deal of professional help to get him through the healing process, there is still much to gain from reading this book.

You can find out more about the book and Roy at

Roy Page is CEO of Third Degree Advertising.

Lucid Books, 208 pages.

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

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Is God Anti-gay? by Sam Allberry

I have been reading books dealing with Christianity and the homosexual lately because the denomination I grew up in is moving towards ordaining practicing homosexuals.

I think I have just read the best book on the subject yet. And it is short – only 83 pages of text.

Allberry is himself a pastor in the UK who experiences same sex attraction. What he writes is not from a hypothetical position. He lives with being a Christian and having same sex attraction.

He answers the argument that Old Testament prohibitions of homosexuality deal with pagan worship practices or rape. He looks at Lev. 18:22 and 20:13 and the surrounding verses and their forbidding homosexual behavior. “None of these have any connection with pagan temples or idolatry. These things are morally wrong, irrespective of who is doing them and where they happen.” (27) Noting that both parties are prohibited equally, “We can't write it off as only prohibiting things like gay rape or a forced relationship. Leviticus prohibits even general, consensual homosexual activity.” (27)

Then he addresses another argument I recently read from a professor at a denominational seminary. Allberry looks at the Romans 1:26-27 passage, arguing that the words “against nature” do not refer to “our subjective experience of what feels natural to us, but instead refer to the fixed way of things in creation.” (29) He notes, “All of us have desires that are warped as a result of our fallen nature.” (30) It is the case for all of us, “...we find ourselves craving what we are not naturally designed to do.” (30)

With great care he goes through each of the Bible passages dealing with the issue. His conclusion: “In each instance where the Bible directly addresses homosexual behavior it is to condemn it. The consistent teaching of the Bible is clear: God forbids homosexual activity.” (36) “As far as Jesus is concerned, the godly alternatives before us are (heterosexual) marriage or celibacy.” (36)

He has suggestions for those experiencing same sex attraction, writing about the struggles of the homosexual Christian. This is a great section for Christians who are critical of homosexuals to read.

He explores how sinful tendencies can be part of God's “all things” that work together for good. He writes about what the church can do for people facing this issue. He reminds us, “All are sinners, and all need God's grace.” (62) We are all sick. We all need help. He encourages us to deal with biblical models of masculinity and femininity, not the cultural stereotypes.

Allberry is very clear. “A church leader who teaches that even certain kinds of homosexual activity are OK is actually sending people to destruction.” (70) The gospel is at stake, he says. So he ends with a section on responding to someone who reveals same sex attraction – with our love and the grace of the gospel.

I highly recommend this book.

Sam Allberry is associate pastor of St. Mary's Church, Maidenhead, UK.

The Good Book Company, 96 pages.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Every Waking Moment by Chris Fabry

Every once and a while a haunting book comes my way. This is one of them. This is a book I savored and will be thinking about for a while.

Treha is an unusual young woman. She works in an assisted living care facility, Desert Gardens, as a janitor of sorts but she has the uncanny ability to connect with the elderly. She can sometimes bring people back from the deep places like severe dementia.

But Treha has her own problems. She can't remember her childhood so she takes to herself the history of others. She has uncontrollable eye movements. She sways back and forth in an attempt to keep the room still. And it is like she has no emotions.

Two events happen that change Treha's world forever. The first event came in the form of two fellows who wanted to make a documentary about some of the elderly at Desert Gardens. They are captivated by Treha's giftedness and are determined to investigate her uncanny abilities. The other event is the forced retirement of the facility's director – the director who recognized Treha's gift and gave her the freedom to connect with so many. The new director has no patience for someone as different as Treha and fires her.

There is a touching story that develops as the film makers and the retired director work together to understand Treha and find out about her history. On the way they uncover a much larger story of greed and deceit with national significance. But there is also the story of the godly elderly people as they react to the new “dictator director” at their retirement home.

In addition to a great story line are quirky characters that put the finishing touches on this fine novel. And the discussion questions at the back makes this novel an excellent choice for a reading group. This is a novel definitely worth reading.

Chris Fabry is an award-winning author and radio personality who hosts a daily program on Moody Radio. His novels have won two Christy Awards and an ECPA Christian Book Award. Chris and his wife have nine children and live in Arizona. You can find out more at

Tyndale House Publishers, 384 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author through The Book Club Network for the purpose of this review. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Power of an Ordinary Prayer by Michael W. Smith

We Christians are to be people who bless others. But if you are like me, you wonder how to do that. How do you pray for others? What can you say?

A few years ago Smith realized that a big part of his life had been a result of others speaking blessings over him. The idea of praying a blessing over others became an important concept for him. In 2011 he wrote A Simple Blessing (see my review of that book here). When I read that book two years ago, I was impressed with the prayer of blessing Michael wrote.

Now his message has been adapted into a less imposing gift book. Included are the biblical principles that can help you turn your spiritual life into one where you experience the true joy of blessing others.

The prayer Michael prays over others has been divided into six specific blessings. He gives the particular section of his prayer, explains the prayer, and gives practical suggestions on opening oneself to the blessing and then sharing it with others.

The prayer of blessing begins:
In the name of Jesus Christ,
I bless you with the promises of God,
which are “yes” and “amen.”

Michael explores the idea of blessing and that it comes only from the Spirit fulfilling our deepest need, a close relationship with our Creator. He wants us to awaken to that reality and carry that through to praying for others. He also hopes that we will ourselves become actively involved in being God's instrument as a blessing to others.

Next is praying for spiritual health:
May the Holy Spirit make you healthy
and strong in body, mind, and spirit
to move in faith and expectancy.
May God's angels be with you to
protect and keep you.

And that is about a fourth of the prayer. With the same passion and insight, Michael continues exploring the remaining parts of his prayer: praying for a pure mind, praying for personal holiness, praying for backyard blessings, praying for spiritual victory.

Michael is quick to note that there is nothing magical about this prayer. It is not some formula to manipulate God into guaranteeing you, or anyone else, an abundant life. That is not the purpose of this book by any means.

Michael's prayer is that this book and his prayer of blessing will inspire you to be holy and to participate in the work of God by being a blessing to others. Yes, God wants to bless you, Michael writes. “And he wants you to bless others through his gifts to you.” (122)

I challenge you to read this book. It will inspire you to take the focus off yourself when you pray and begin to focus on blessing others.

Michael has included Scripture and quotes from others as well as questions for reflection and action, along with space for journaling.

Michael W. Smith is a multiple-time Grammy and Dove Award-winning singer/songwriter. He has recorded more than twenty-two albums and written numerous hit songs. He has also written several best-selling books. He and his wife have five children and live in Nashville.

Worthy Publishing, 128 pages.

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