Saturday, October 31, 2015

Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey

I love this book. The wisdom and insight Bessey has is phenomenal. I'd read the book just for her benediction, the prayer she has for us at the end. This book is an exceptional spiritual memoir of “growing up” in faith.

I can identify with her situation: “Like so many aspects of my spirituality, I am still a bit in-between, figuring out what I reclaim and what I relinquish, living with a few unanswered questions while relying heavily on the few things I do know...”

She grew up in the Charismatic movement. She saw the real and the foolishness and has an excellent take on the movement. She left organized church for a while. She attended a liturgical church and found meaning in their prayer structure. “When I couldn't find my way through the clutter of praise and worship, I found Jesus in the silence and liturgy.” I love how she writes about the different spiritual streams and how there is one for each of us.

I love how she grapples with her core beliefs and how she takes us through the time when everything she knew for sure had to be figured out all over again. She helps us know what we need to walk away from and what we need to reclaim. She helps us find out that Jesus is the center of everything.

I love how she came to a new understanding of the Bible, seeing everything through the lens of Jesus. She came to a higher view of Scripture than she'd ever had before. I love how she came to a new understanding of the church, where she had found some of her greatest hurts and her greatest healings. I love how she takes us through her stages of faith development and how she can now hold questions and imperfect answers at the same time. I love how she describes herself as a recovering know it all, learning to live comfortably with uncertainty.

I recommend this book to Christians who are out of sorts, that is, know that your beliefs and practices need some sorting. You'll be challenged to let go of the things that do not matter and cling to the only Person who does. You'll find a new appreciation for the church and for living life that is sacred 24/7.

But this book is not for everyone. Growing up is terrifying, Bessey says. Rethinking your faith is not for the weak of heart. You have to be willing to face an uncertain future, knowing who holds it secure. Rest assured, at the end of the book, you'll have settled your life around Jesus.

There is an excellent set of Discussion Questions included for personal or group use.

My rating: 5+/5 stars.

You can read the first four chapters here.

Sarah Bessey is an award winning blogger, author of Jesus Feminist, and is a passionate advocate for global women's issues. She partners with the Help One Now ministry in Haiti and lives in Abbortsford, BC, with her husband and their children. You can find out more about her and follow her blog at

Howard Books, 272 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Grit to Great by Linda Kaplan Thaler & Robin Koval

I like the premise of this book. There is much more to success than inherent talent or ability. “Passion and perseverance, it turns out, matter more than talent or intelligence when it comes to being successful.” (12)

The authors use “grit” to identify the stick-to-it attitude of determination. Guts, Resilience, Initiative, Tenacity. The good news is that GRIT can be learned.

The authors use many stories from their own experience to show the value of grit. They used so many of their own experiences I felt they were blowing their own horn, so to speak. These women are successful, however, and know whereof they speak. Their PR firm was behind the AFLAC duck. Even I have a few of those advertisements cemented in my memory.

I like how the authors explored the current idea of pushing self-esteem. They show that it has not been effective. The authors also emphasize the necessity of character building. I come from an era when the value of hard work and good character was instilled in children and I appreciated the authors' comments.

This is a good book for those who were not born with an over the top IQ nor outstanding talent. Determination can be learned, as can optimism. And failure? “Failure is how we learn,” the authors write, “it's how we develop and acquire grit.” (23) There are lots of vignettes of ordinary people who have been successful because they just kept at it. There are some good stories of older people who found success late in life too.

This is an encouraging book because it tells us that talent, intelligence, age – there are so many things that do not inhibit our ability to succeed. That means many of us who thought we didn't have a chance can succeed if we try hard enough and be persistent enough. Wrap that around the fact that our brains are hardwired to do good (130) and that really spells success.

I recommend this book to those who think they aren't smart enough, aren't talented enough, or aren't young enough to succeed. If you have grit, there just may be a new future for you.

You can find out more about the book and take a grit test at
You can watch Linda Kaplan Thaler speak on Grit to Great here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Linda Kaplan Thaler is an Advertising Hall of Fame who helped create many of the industry's most iconic campaigns, including Kodak Moments and the AFLAC Duck. She was the co-founder and CEO of the Kaplan Thaler Group. She is currently chairman of Publicis Kaplan Thaler and the co-author of several national bestsellers. She lives with her family in New York.
Robin Koval is the CEO and President of the Truth Initiative, the national public health foundation dedicated to achieving a culture where all youth and young adults reject tobacco. Previously a leader in the world of advertising and marketing, she is co-founder of the Kaplan Thaler Group and was CEO of Publicis Kaplan Thaler. She is the co-author of two bestsellers. She and her husband live in Washington, DC.

Crown Business, 160 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Angel in Aisle 3 by Kevin West with Frederick Edwards

The first day Kevin West saw the shabbily dressed stranger enter his grocery store, he had no idea this man would change his life. This book is a well written account of that unlikely friendship.

West had been a successful vice president of a bank when, in 1998, he resigned, having made fraudulent loans. He had drifted far from his faith and his pursuit of success had driven him to illegal banking practices. Waiting for his indictment and trial, he spent the time managing the small grocery store he had bought in Ironton, Ohio, as an investment. At a low ebb, he cried out to God. The answer came in the form of an elderly and unkempt man named Don.

This is a fascinating story of an unlikely friendship, one that changed both of the men. There are many lessons to learn from this book. A major one is how we look at other people. Many of us would have written Don off as a homeless panhandler, never thinking God might have something for us to learn from him. We are taught that there is value in every person and each one of them has a story.

I was impressed with the biblical teaching included within the development of the story. Don has a surprising insight into Scripture and an amazing amount of spiritual wisdom. We learn a lesson on brokenness and honesty. We read about our trying to project the image we think others want of us. We see the difference between intellectually accepting forgiveness and actually living out that forgiveness emotionally.

The story is a lesson on God's plan for our lives. Kevin had to experience the pain and hurt his actions caused in those he loved the most. He also had to realize that God's path for him included prison as part of his growth journey. Yet, because of his interaction with Don and his desire to deepen his faith, Kevin prospered in prison where God used him mightily. His marriage was preserved and strengthened and he received the support of friends and relatives.

I recommend this story as a good one showing how God may use the very unusual to influence our lives. Who would have thought that a man smelling of uncleanness and dressed in tattered clothes would be the one to spiritually mentor an ex-bank vice-president? It is a good reminder to be open to those around us and see them as God does.

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Kevin West has recently served as executive pastor of Christ Temple Church in Huntington, West Virginia, and is now president of Kevin West Ministries and Expression Ministries Network, senior pastor of Expression Church of Huntington, and a business owner. He speaks internationally and can be heard on his daily radio program, Real Life with Kevin West. He and his wife have four children and two grandchildren. You can find out more at
John Frederick Edwards is an award winning author with an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in English. He has taught writing in universities and private schools. A native of West Virginia, he and his wife spend their time between Kentucky and Texas.

Howard Books, 240 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Thunder by Bonnie S. Calhoun

I really enjoyed this dystopian young adult novel.

The setting is 150 years in the future. There has been a great disaster including a huge tsunami that destroyed much of the east coast of America. Much of the landscape of the novel contains the rusted ruins of a great city.

Selah is our heroin. She is about to turn eighteen and is on the shore one day when she sees one of the small boats that come from afar lands. The people that emerge are called Landers and there is a high bounty on their heads. When Landers emerge from the broken boats they are somewhat dazed and can be easily captured. Selah, wanting to prove to her brothers that she can hunt too, captures the man. She touches him and that changes her life forever.

This novel has a little bit of everything in the future. There is a huge underground city where people live and work free from the once deadly elements in the air. Also in the mountain are scientists using the Landers for experiments, paying a good price for live ones. The poor people on the coast use wagons while the people of the mountain have futuristic flying machines. The Lander Selah rescued has special powers, such as in healing minor wounds and mentally connecting with others of his kind.

I found Selah to be an interesting character. She is portrayed as not liked by her family except her mother. As the plot progresses, we find out why her father and one brother have hatred for her. She is a teen heroin who feels she needs to prove herself to her family and the world.

There is no overt Christianity in this novel, but this is just the first in a series. There is reference to the Presence and I hope that becomes clearer in the next novel.

While the main character is female, I think teen guys would like the book too. There's lots of fighting and action to keep them entertained. There are some gory parts too, so this book might not be appropriate for very young teens. At the end, we know there is going to be much more to the story. The adventure is just beginning.

I thoroughly enjoyed Calhoun's writing style. I breezed through the novel quickly and am looking forward to Lightning.

You can read the first chapter here.

You can also download a free prequel, Tremors, from Amazon.
There is also a short sequel to this novel, or prequel to Lightning, that is a free download, called Aftershock.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Bonnie S. Calhoun is Director of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and is owner/publisher of Christian Fiction Online Magazine, now in its seventh year. She is the author of two previous novels and is a web specialist. She and her husband live on 15 acres with a pond. You can find out more at

Revell, 427 pages.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The God You Thought You Knew by Alex McFarland

I was disappointed in this book. First of all, the title is a misnomer. There is only one myth about God. The rest are about the Bible and Christianity.

Let me first cover parts of the book I appreciated before describing more of my disappointments. He has a very good exploration of truth and evil, the kinds of evil there are and how they originated. He emphasizes that many misunderstandings of God and Christianity arise because Christians are not living as the Bible instructs. Our being hypocrites really does cause stumbling blocks for others. McFarland repeatedly encourages seekers to look to the Bible, not how Christians (mis)behave.

He has good observations on skeptics and atheists, based on his experience and interaction with them from his fifteen years of talk radio. “Intellectual skepticism is preceded by emotional pain. Intellectual doubt comes second – in most cases.” This is good for Christians to know when interacting with skeptics. It helps us get to the origin of the disbelief.

He has included a good annotated list of books for further research. Unfortunately, most of the books are older, some printed decades ago. But the annotations would help readers search for further resources.

But I was disappointed in the lack of intellectual rigor with which McFarland addressed the ten myths. He makes broad generalizations. For example, after he explores Intelligent Design, he writes, “A wide variety of thoughts and opinions exist regarding how God created and designed the universe, but both science and Scripture agree on a starting point – an outside, Intelligent Designer who made all things.” I've read many books on science and origins and McFarland's statement is just not true. There are a few scientists who argue for Intelligent Design but most scientists, and science in general, reject that idea.

I was disappointed in his lack of providing adequate footnotes to back up his statements. For example, about the historical facts supporting the life of Jesus, he writes, “...those who claim Jesus never existed defy both early copies of the New Testament documents as well as the numerous historical writings that mention Jesus and early Christianity outside of the Bible (such as the early Jewish historian Josephus).” There is no footnote nor reference to those “numerous” writings. And, “The book of Acts cites at least eighty-four historical facts verified by later research and archaeology.” Again, no footnote nor further information. How are those statements useful without facts to back them up?

I was disappointed that McFarland sometimes brushes off serious issues. For example, while acknowledging that the age of the universe is an important topic, he writes, “But questions about the age of the universe should not in any way prevent people from reaching positive conclusions about Jesus Christ, who gave his life for the forgiveness of sins!” And, “...entering into a relationship with God really has nothing to do with what one believes about how old the universe is.” Sorry, but it just doesn't work that way. The veracity of Genesis is extremely important when it comes to believing what the rest of the Bible says. One cannot just blow off a very important issue over which many believers and nonbelievers struggle.

So, to whom would I recommend this book? That is a difficult question. McFarland writes sometimes in a manner that assumes the reader accepts the Bible as accurate and truthful. So the potential reader must at least be open to the truthfulness of the Bible. The lack of intellectual rigor and the frequent use of decades old material preclude my recommending it to scholarly or readers under 60 years old.

My rating: 2 ½ stars out of 5.

Alex McFarland is a speaker, writer, and advocate of apologetics. He has preached in over 1,500 different churches throughout the world. He has been featured in many conferences and has been interviewed on many television programs. He served as Focus on the Family's first Director of Teen Apologetics, then went on to serve as president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. He developed and hosted three nationally syndicated radio programs. You can find out more about them at and He has written over 150 published articles and many books. He has a Master's degree in Christian Thought/Apologetics from Liberty University. He and his wife life in North Carolina. You can find out more at

Bethany House Publishers, 208 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

#Stolen by Jessica Fralin

We're the most connected generation in all of history,” Fralin writes. “We are also the loneliest.” (27)

How we handle social media matters. Social media is setting the standard, telling us what's acceptable and what's right and wrong. Is that what we want?

Fralin reminds us that when we reveal only what we want others to know, we can create a persona and social media, in effect, steals our real identity.

It's time to take back what social media has stolen. It's time to be who we really are. That means we must fight for our freedom.

Fralin reveals the lessons she has learned about social media. She explores our need to be loved and living in an “instant” culture. She reminds us of the fulfilling nature of face-to-face friendships, the support of community, and the joy if real life moments. Other topics include selfies, why words matter, what shouldn't be put on social media, and emotions.

She does not advocate abandoning social media altogether. She encourages us to learn to fight its false messages. She recognizes it has its uses, like connecting with people we do not see very often. Social media needs to have its proper place.

Fralin found her true identity, fulfilling love, and contentment in Jesus Christ, in a connection with God. She encourages us to do the same.

There are good discussion questions included in the book. This would be a good book to discuss in a teen group. In fact, I think that would be its best use. You can download a free six session Youth Group Leader Guide and other resources at

You can join the conversation at

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Jessica Fralin in an author, blogger, and full-time college student residing in Lynchburg, Virginia. As a worship leader and aspiring women's ministry leader, she conveys the message of love, acceptance, and worth that can only be found in the gospel. You can find out more at and follow her on Twitter @JessicaFralin.

Abingdon Press, 208 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Litfuse for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Dog That Saved Stewart Coolidge by Jim Kraus

This is a delightful story about a special dog that turns out to be quite a match maker. But before he was a match maker, he was a criminal.

We first hear about the stray as he is swiping a chew bone from the local grocery store. The patient dog knows just when to sneak through the automatic door, trot down to aisle five, and snag a chew bone from the bottom bin. He's out the door in a flash midst the yelling of the manager.

Stewart Coolidge, political science college graduate but current grocery store employee, is assigned the dangerous task of chasing the dog. Day after day the clever dog outwits his would be captors. Imagine Stewart's surprise when he sees the dog by his apartment. Stewart takes him in. That helps him get to know, Lisa, the beautiful young woman in the apartment below. A journalism major now making lattes submits a story to the local paper. Soon the dog is famous and a reward is offered. Even as Steward and Lisa are getting to know each other better, their lives become quite complicated.

I love this well written dog story. Lisa names the stray Hubert and he is a dear. He likes to listen to Scripture being read. That's a good thing for Stewart who has abandoned the faith his grandmother taught him. Hubert is such an intelligent dog, he knows better what Stewart and Lisa need than they do. Stewart and Lisa are great characters. Stewart is kind of clueless about romance and life in general and Hubert helps him in so many ways. It is just sweet.

This is a great novel about damaged people being loved into wholeness by a stray dog, a dog with the scars of mistreatment on his back. It is a good reminder that God may have unusual means to get us where He wants us to be.

Can a dog understand faith and trust and who God is? I don't know, but it sure makes for a delightful novel. There's a Reading Group Guide so this would be a good choice for reading groups. I highly recommend it.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Jim Kraus has been a vice-president at a major Christian publishing house for the past twenty years. He has written more than twenty books and novels, many with his wife. He is also an award winning photographer. He and his wife have a son and live outside of Chicago. Find out more about his books at

Faith Words, 336 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Boy Born Dead by David Ring with John Driver & David Wideman

This is an extraordinary memoir. It is a story of God's grace and power in a young man's life when he was so discouraged he no longer wanted to live.

David Ring was born dead. He remain dead for eighteen minutes. His mother cried out to Jesus and finally, a nurse noticed movement.

But the time without oxygen to his brain left David with cerebral palsy. His life was harder than I can imagine. His parents separated when David was still young. Then his mother died when he was fourteen. The youngest of his seven siblings, only one sister would take him in.

The book opens with David having arrived in Liberty, Missouri, and his new school. On his first day at the bus stop, he's made fun of. David Wideman came to his rescue and that was the beginning of a life long friendship.

This book is an amazing account of David Ring's high school years. We experience the trials and the victories he had. While living in his sister's house, he was terribly mistreated by his sister's friend. He became so depressed he attempted suicide. Because of his friend David, there came a time when he entered a church and found the truth that gave him a reason for living.

This book is so well written, it feels like a novel. John Driver wrote the book as David Spring's limitations in verbal and motor skills precluded writing it himself. Driver writes, “this book is a work of nonfiction with ribbons of fictitious elements running throughout.” (250) The basic framework of David's teenage experiences were augmented with added minor characters and events. That serves to make a very readable and inspiring story.

This account of David Spring rising above his disabilities through the power of God is amazing. Upon hearing his story while still a teen, his high school psychology teacher said, “I guess for the first time in my life, I see something in someone else that makes me want to believe in something bigger than myself.” (226) That first telling of his story was the beginning of a speaking career that has inspired thousands.

I highly recommend this book. It is such an inspiring story and it is very well written. I didn't want it to end.

Watch this video to get an idea of the inspiration contained in this book.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

David Ring has been an internationally known speaker since 1973, sharing his story with over 100,000 people each year at churches, conventions, schools and corporate events. He is frequently featured on national television. He and his wife life in Nashville, Tennessee. They have four children and three grandchildren. You can find out more at
John Driver is an educator turned pastor and ministry leader whocreated Ignition 7, a global initiative of resources crafted to equip people to be sustained in their faith. He is the author or co-author of more than a dozen books. He and his wife and daughter live in Tennessee.
David Wideman has been a pastor at Christ Journey Church in Coral Gables, Florida, since 1983. He is the executive pastor of campus operations. He and his wife have two adult children and live in Florida.

Baker Books, 255 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher fort he purpose of an independent and honest review.

Awe by Paul David Tripp

We have an awe problem,” Tripp writes. We are hard wired for awe. God created us that way. Our focus is to be on the beauty of God but other kinds of awe have captured our heart. We need to refocus our wondering heart on God again and again for nothing else will satisfy.

God intentionally loaded the world with amazing things to leave you astounded.” Tripp says God created us with the ability to take in that awe and pursue it. The awe we pursue controls our thoughts and emotions and shapes the direction of our life.

Tripp helps us determine the awe we pursue. We will always be dissatisfied if our pursuit is not for the awe found in God. All other awe was created to point us to God.

There is a war going on for what will rule our pursuit. Sin replaces our worship of God with worship of self. Tripp argues that our wrong pursuit is at the root and source of every evil thing we think, say, and do. He shows us in Scripture how this war is being waged. Reading Isaiah 40 is the beginning of getting on the right path again.

Tripp has nailed it. He reveals the true source of our disappointment, our hurt, our anger, our frustration. Our emotions reveal what has captured our awe, as does our complaining. We will not find what we are looking for in created things, yet we keep looking, keep trying.

I highly recommend this book to every Christian. Tripp has a special section for pastors and another for parents, but this book is for all Christians who want to understand the longing and how it is rightly filled. He writes, “...only when your heart is satisfied in him can you be free of looking for spiritual satisfaction in the fleeting pleasures of the physical world.”

I recommend this book to anyone who is seeking personal happiness and fulfillment and has not found it. Tripp has great insight into our condition and that for which we so desperately seek. May we seek to have hearts captured by the awe of God. Reading this book helps us understand how to focus on that which truly fills us.

Food for thought: “Only when awe of God progressively replaces awe of self will we joyfully, willingly, and consistently live as God designed us to live.”

You can watch an interview about the book here.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Paul David Tripp (DMin, Westminster Theological Seminary) is a pastor, author, and international conference speaker. He is also the president of Paul Tripp Ministries, professor of pastoral life and care at Redeemer Seminary, and executive director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care, under the auspices of the Association of Biblical Counselors. He is the author of a number of books. He and his wife live in Philadelphia and have four grown children. You can find out more at

Crossway, 208 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

90 Days Through the New Testament in Chronological Order by Ron Rhodes

This book contains a great amount of material. Reading the New Testament in 90 days is a worthy goal and is attainable, I think. Doing so giving time to all the material in this book and giving due thought to the Bible may make the 90 day goal unrealistic.

Here are a few of my observations. Some chronological Bibles combine passages when they are “parallel,” that is, they will provide one reading and give only the references to the others. Rhodes suggests you read all the passages, so one might read the same story from several of the gospels. Scholars do not agree on all the chronology, so for the gospels, one cannot really use an existing chronological Bible and must find each passage.

There are several sets of comments on the passages. First is an overview. If it is the first reading in a book, facts are given about the author and his intent in writing the book. There there are thoughts on difficult passages. The major themes of the passages are identified next. Then follows cross references should we want to investigate a theme further. Life lessons found in the passages are them given. Next are a list of verses to remember, meditate upon, and perhaps memorize. Then there are questions for reflection and discussion. Lastly is a written prayer.

The first half of the book covers the life of Christ while the second half covers the rest of the New Testament. Some of the shorter books are covered in one day's reading, such as James, I Thessalonians, and II Thessalonians. Galatians is given two days.

I really like all the additional material Rhodes has included in this book. There is a wealth of material he has provided. I do wish he would have followed an already published chronological Bible. He notes that finding the passages is a worthy task, but I would have preferred having a chronological New Testament or Bible alongside me that would have made it easier.

I also would have liked the option to divide the daily reading and commentary so as a reader, I could have decided to make it a 180 day project or one taking all year. That would have allowed me to incorporate all the material given on the passages but at a slower and more meditative pace.

If you have the desire to read through the New Testament in a chronological order in 90 days and will take the time, say at least a half hour a day, to do so, this is an excellent book. Just be sure you understand the time commitment before beginning this project.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Ron Rhodes is president of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries. He is heard regularly on nationwide radio. He has a ThM and ThD from Dallas Theological Seminary and teaches there and at other seminaries. You can find out more at

Harvest House Publishers, 400 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Thoughtful Christianity by Ben Daniel

Daniel begins his book by noting that, while Americans are quite religious compared to Europeans, their knowledge is lacking. He shows that, not only is their knowledge of other faiths lacking, but knowledge of their own. “It is clear to me,” he writes, “American Christians are long overdue for a great awakening of the mind.” The next revival, he says, must be one awakening intellectual 

With that opening, I had high hopes for this book. I was disappointed to find that Daniel's idea of such an awakening is to accept the opinions of contemporary thought as shaping our understanding of biblical truth.

As a Christian on the conservative side, I would not describe this book as a rigorously intellectual one. Daniel gives many anecdotes and survey results to “prove” his case, but he does not explore the various Scriptures that conservative Christians look to for direction. For example, on his writing about the LGBT community, he does not address, let alone even mention, those troubling Scriptures with which truly thinking Christians must struggle. In his discussion on Islam, he mentions statistics and anecdotes but never references the Koran nor statements made by influential Muslim clerics. I would hope a truly thinking Christian would want to consult the Koran and the writings of those who comment on it to form discerning conclusions about that faith.

Daniel does not look to the Bible as a “final” authority on faith and theology. He suggests the possibility that the Bible was “written to convey spiritual wisdom rather than historical or scientific fact.” He advocates reading the Bible in such a way that it gives space for data from science. He explores what “biblical inerrancy” means and what it says to evolutionary biology and the study of evolving viruses, bacteria, etc. He suggests our understanding of the Bible should necessarily change as new scientific and sociological light is shined on issues. He rejects a narrow reading of the Old Testament and advocates a faith formed by empirical data.

There are times when he selectively mentions Scripture. For example, when discussing whether Jesus was sinless or not, he writes, “It is true that a few passages in the New Testament seem to suggest Jesus was without sin (1 Pet. 2:21-23 and 2 Cor. 5:21, for example), but...”. He fails to mention Hebrews 4:15, a passage that is quite adamant that Jesus did not sin. Using the story of the Canaanite woman with the daughter tortured by a demon, Daniel thinks the best way to read the story is that “Jesus changed his mind and his heart.” Jesus' perfection “must be manifested in his ability to learn and to change.” We Christians should emulate his example of changing when confronted with new information. A case in point, he says, is that Christians should be using their prophetic voice for human rights, such as for the LGBT community. I wish he would have helped us work through biblical passages that seem to call for an opposite prophetic voice.

Daniel says he is well aware that there can be criticism on both the progressive and conservative sides of Christianity. He claims this book is not a simple endorsement of liberalism nor a blanket condemnation of conservative Christianity. He says he is calling for a faith rooted in biblical knowledge and formed by intelligence, curiosity, and secular learning. I appreciate Daniel's suggestions that Christians should be informed by the past, science and by a knowledge of world events. But I am disappointed that the examples he used all seemed to be aimed at pointing out the errors of the conservative side of Christianity.

Much of what Daniel says is a wake-up call to all Christians, both liberal and conservative. He makes many valuable points, giving evidence where unthinking Christians have made terrible assumptions resulting in terrible mistakes.

Liberal Christians will love this book while conservatives will want to throw it across the room. I think its best use would be to initiate dialog. There is much conservative Christians could learn from this book, namely, how they are seen by liberals and non-Christians. And there is much liberal Christians could be asked to consider from their more conservative fellow Christians, such as the authority of Scripture. This book would be a good one over which to initiate the dialog. This would also be a good book for conservative Christians to read to understand how liberal Christians think.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Ben Daniel is pastor of Montclair Presbyterian Church in Oakland, California. He is a regular blogger for the Huffington Post and provides commentary for KQED FM. He is the author of two previous books.

Westminster John Knox Press, 216 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Every Little Thing by Deidra Riggs

Riggs wants us to see the sacred role we have in changing our corner of the world. She invites us to see the significance of an ordinary, average life. God chooses to invite us to join Him.

She explores the issues that might keep us from entering into God's plan. She helps us understand we are free from condemnation (which is not the same as conviction). She shows that fear does not disqualify us from God's calling. God invites us to trust Him. But it is not a spectator sport.

Riggs shares many of her own experiences. One is to help us understand that, even though God may ask us to relocate, He is always with us, preparing the way. Her life is a testimony that God will bring us through. She includes the examples of many biblical characters too.

This book is a great encouragement to those who will never be on the cover of a magazine or be a mega-pastor. It is a book for those who desire to make a difference in their communities, their churches, and their families. “We can take solace and find comfort in the biblical accounts of people doing seemingly insignificant things that mattered for eternity.” (158)

This is a great book for the average and ordinary Christian. We are encouraged to know that God has an adventure for us. There is no thinking that we are not smart enough or that we are too old. Riggs shows us that where ever we are, God is ready to use us.

I recommend this book to those who have been discouraged by books mandating that we have to give up all to be used by God. He has a plan for us right now, Riggs writes. He delights in us and wants to use us right now. We just need to ask Him what adventure He has planned for us.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Deidra Riggs is a blogger at Jumping Tandem, as well as DaySpring's (in)courage and The She has been a speaker for TEDx and women's retreats. She and her husband have two adult children and live in Nebraska. Find out more at

Baker Books, 192 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Identity Thief by Robby Dawkins

Dawkins is concerned that Christians are being duped by the identity thief. I think this book was misnamed. Something like Power Thief would have better described its content. In the end, he writes about the authority we have because we know Jesus, not about our righteousness nor the fruit of the Spirit. This book is not a study of our identity in Christ. It is about how the Thief has stolen our understanding of the power and authority we have in Christ. “I believe that as children of God, we can expect to walk in power and experience miracles on a constant basis.” The Thief has stolen that knowledge.

Dawkins tells lots of stories to illustrate his concern. Many of the stories are about those who have forgotten who they are in Christ. Many of these stories are about pastors who have gone astray. The other stories are about the author, his children, and others who have evidenced their faith in the authority and power they have in Christ. The book is a collection of stories illustrating his concern, not a Scriptural investigation into our identity in Christ.

If you want to read encouraging stories of people who exercised their spiritual authority, and heartbreaking stories of those who didn't, you will like this book. If you want to obtain a biblical strategy for battling the mind schemes the Thief employs, you will have to look elsewhere.

Dawkins encourages us to know the identity and birthright we have in Christ. He emphasizes the aspect of our being told to heal the sick and raise the dead. He encourages us to protect ourselves from the deceit and trickery of the Thief. We must do that by exercising our faith in what God says is true of us. The actual strategy is left up to us.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Robby Dawkins and his wife have been married twenty years and have six sons. He served as youth pastor for twelve years before planting a Vineyard church in Aurora, Illinois. He is a popular international speaker on power evangelism. He has been featured is many films and documentaries. You can find out more at (Photo © Laura Gravelle Photography)

Chosen Books, 240 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Quest for Wellness by Mark Sherwood, ND

Wellness is a broad term and this book contains a wealth of information about creating a wellness plan. When the information in this book is applied, Sherwood writes, we will experience more energy and strength.

This book is much more than just about what we eat. He reminds us that wellness has four components: being spiritually connected, intellectually stimulated, emotionally balanced, and physically strong and energized. He reminds us that wellness is learned and must be practiced. He gives a plan that helps us progress in each of those areas.

Some of what Sherwood prescribes is familiar. There is an emphasis on increased physical activity and making better nutritional choices. But there are suggestions that may be surprising. He writes about managing stress, about limiting social media and news broadcasts, about character traits like integrity, saying “no” to manipulative people, and even some communication skills. So this book is much more than an eating or exercise plan. It is really a road map to complete wellness, including the mind and spirit as well as the body. He presents the plan is phases to ease us into the healthy habits.

There are plenty of practical tips included to start us on our way to wellness. He helps us set appropriate goals. He advises that we keep a journal and suggests the content. He asks us to change our perspective and begin thinking of ourselves as people in hot pursuit of health and wellness.

Sherwood reminds us that developing a wellness plan is planning for a way to live the most fulfilling life possible. This book contains a well rounded plan to move toward wellness in every area of life. I highly recommend it.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Mark Sherwood, Naturopathic Doctor, is the founder and president of Live4E. He also has a full time naturopathic practice in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the Functional Medical Institute. He is a former bodybuilding champion, a former professional baseball player and a 24 year retired veteran of the Tulsa Police Department. He and his wife are the hosts of the weekly television program, 4ETV, airing on three networks. You can find out more at and

Emerge Publishing, 224 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through The Book Club Network for the purpose of an independent and honest review.