Monday, November 30, 2015

Unstoppable Gospel by Gregg Matte

Some people are frustrated with the church and want to give up on it. Matte reminds us Jesus left no option to follow Him while isolating ourselves from other believers. Christians would be known by their love for one another and if you want to be used by God, Matte writes, “then you need to learn to love His church.” (13)

He takes us through the book of Acts where we see that the gospel (and the church) was unstoppable. The same power of the Holy Spirit that turned the world upside down is available today. “The first-century church set a pattern that is still the model for producing explosive results in the twenty-first century...” (19)

There are many lessons Matte brings out of the Acts narrative. He writes of the primary importance of prayer, paying attention to God's timing, the tension of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility, believers caring for the needs of one another, paying attention to the opportunities God provides, and preparing for persecution.

I like that he reminds us, “Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, we can do nothing. But once His power comes upon us, we can do anything.” (24)

Matte's emphasis is on the first half of Acts. He adds many examples from his own life, that of his church, and experiences of others to illustrate his teaching. I did feel that he told plenty of stories about successful ministries in his own church. Some pastors of smaller congregations may find those stories a bit intimidating.

I recommend this book to those looking for a very readable look at the early church as seen in the book of Acts. There is good encouragement to actively participate in the mission of the church.

Food for thought:
The church is all about Jesus. Anything else is not the church.” (67)

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Gregg Matte is senior pastor of Houston's First Baptist Church and founder of Breakaway Ministries at Texas A&M University. He and his family life in Texas.

Baker Books, 224 pages.

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

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Big Question by Alister McGrath

Despite predictions by outspoken atheists that belief in God would fade away, it hasn't. Why?

Science has its limits, McGrath says. It can't answer questions like why we are here, or what the point of life is. We humans want answers to those questions so there is a deeper quest – the quest for God.

McGrath shares his own progression, his “growing realization that belief in God made a lot more sense of things than my atheism.” (8) He rejects the dogmatic view that one must choose science over religion, based mostly on historical myths. He offers an alternative approach that welcomes the confluence of science and faith.

I like his approach to science, quoting Eugenie Scott, then director of the National Center for Science Education, “'Science neither denies nor opposes the supernatural, but ignores the supernatural for methodological reasons.'” (19)

McGrath asks us to consider another way of thinking about science and faith. He has found it to be deeply satisfying and says it is worth exploring. He shares his own quest for an integrated understanding of reality. He writes about the personal nature of scientific knowledge and how Christian faith made far more sense of what he saw around him than atheism did.

Some criticize Christian faith because it is untestable. McGrath identifies scientific theories that explain but are untestable, like M-theory and the multiuniverse theory. Such theories are valued (though debated) because they provide a way of seeing things that makes sense of observations. (72) He notes the parallel to Christianity – untestable but explaining our observations.

Some said Darwinism was a way to finally get rid of God. McGrath reviews the major themes from Darwin's work, including the idea that humans are more than their components. He writes about the limits of science, such as it not being able to inform us about morality. Science is a tool used for specific purposes, he says. When used for something else it does not work.

McGrath emphasizes that he is not trying to defend either science or Christianity. He is rather encouraging readers to see how they might intertwine and interconnect. “This book,” he writes, “represents a plea for dialogue, opening the door to an enriched vision of reality.” (207) There is much yet to discuss, he says. This book paints with a broad brush and there are many important questions that still need to be investigated.

I highly recommend this book to those seeking to find and explore a coherent and satisfying understanding of the world in which we live, learning from the strengths and weaknesses of both science and faith. (11)

Food for thought:
And like it or not, the idea of God remains one of the simplest, most elegant and most satisfying ways of seeing our world.” (89)
Science is a vitally important tool for investigating our world and living within it. But it illuminates only part of the picture, not the whole picture. To think otherwise is a delusion. And we need that whole picture if we are to live authentic and meaningful lives.” (182)

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Alister McGrath is a scholar in the interaction of theology and the sciences and currently holds the post of Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at Oxford University. He is the author of many books on theology and religion. He lives in Oxford, UK. You can find out more at

St. Martin's Press, 264 pages.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Faith Alone by Thomas Schreiner

We are coming upon the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. It is fitting that a new series of books would highlight the five rallying cries of that movement.

Faith alone – sola fide – declares our justification is by faith alone. Schreiner shows that justification by faith alone is the teaching of the Bible and is deeply rooted in the early church writers and theologians throughout church history. He shows it also makes sense in our Christian experience. He also looks at contemporary authors on the subject.

He lays a foundation by defining terms. His historical section is not exhaustive as he looks at major theologians prior to the Reformation, major Reformation Protestants, and the Council of Trent. He covers the debate on Christ's work, whether it includes the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of righteousness or not.

He reviews what the Bible says regarding justification, beginning with Paul, then the gospels and Acts. He covers the “faith in Jesus Christ” verses the “faith of Jesus Christ” issue. He explains justification in Paul's theology, critiquing many contemporary authors. He explores the meaning of righteousness and then the eschatological nature of justification in Paul's writings.

He covers the complicated issue of whether God's righteousness is transformative or forensic. He argues for the forensic position, that is, a declaration. He shows that the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ is imputed to believers, addressing those who oppose the idea. He looks at the role of good works with respect to faith.

He lastly answers contemporary challenges to sola fide, including the Catholic dialogs, the Joint Declaration, the ECT, Frank Beckwith's return to Catholicism, and N. T. Wright's New Perspective on Paul.

I really appreciated Schreiner's argument that the verdict of justification is effective. Sinners who trust in Christ are truly righteous before God. That righteousness is not of themselves but in Jesus Christ. “They are righteous because they are united to Jesus Christ and he is their righteousness.” This righteousness is no legal fiction. Christ's righteousness has been imputed to believers. “We are truly right in God's sight by faith alone!”

This is a very good introduction to justification by faith, including an exploration of the doctrine. Those looking for a review of the topic, including history, the Bible, and theology will appreciate this book. It is a bit academic, with tons of footnotes, but serious laypeople will be able to follow the text well. There is an extensive Bibliography included for those who would like to study the subject further.

I highly recommend this book to those who want to know what justification by faith alone really means and how it affects their spiritual life.

You can watch a book trailer here.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Thomas R. Schreiner (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament and associate dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. The author of numerous books, he is the preaching pastor of Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

Zondervan Academic, 288 pages.

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

Friday, November 27, 2015

A Fair to Remember by Suzie Johnson

This is a delightful historical romance. We are taken to the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. Our main character is a Kodak girl. Clara Lambert had been hired by George Eastman to take photos, or snapshots, as he called them. The idea was to convince women how easy it was to create lasting memories of their families and thereby sell more of his “Brownie” cameras.

Her adventure turns out to be more than she expected when she witnesses the attempted assassination of President McKinley. During that experience, she catches the eye of James Brinton. He has a past that got him relieved of his police duties. A compassionate captain has allowed James to work again but he must be on his best behavior or his career with the police is over.

Clara is shocked when, in the aftermath of the assassination attempt, someone tries to steal her camera. James comes to her rescue. With the attempted assassin already in custody, why would someone want her camera? The police demand copies of the photos she has taken. When some of the photos show incriminating evidence, James must decide where his loyalties lie.

I really like how the characters have been brought to life in this novel. Johnson has captured the era, especially how people were responding to the idea of taking photos. Women were hesitant to attempt the process. There were some people, it seems, who thought the photographs stayed in the camera somehow, even after the film had been removed.

Every good romance needs obstacles. There several issues that Clara and James must work through before romance can blossom. Both have made choices in the past that affect their current lives and each must make the difficult choice of forgiveness. I really like how they rely on their Christian faith to do the hard thing. Add a couple of misunderstandings in there and the result is a good romance.

I always like to learn something new when I read a novel and I wish there had been more about how the Brownie camera worked. Clara once commented that she hoped the photo was in focus and that got me thinking about how the focusing was done. Also, Clara changed her film in a lighted room. Did they have film canisters then? I'm an avid photographer and other readers might not even be interested in these details.

I do recommend this well crafted and well written historical romance that includes a bit of a mystery. Those who appreciate a character driven historical romance with plenty of obstacles to overcome will really like this one.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Suzie Johnson is the author of three previous novels. She is married with one adult son and lives on an island in Northwest Washington. You can find out more about her and her books and follow her blog at

WhiteFire Publishing, 300 pages.

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

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Waking Up by Ted Dekker

I've read many of Dekker's novels so when I saw this short and free spiritual memoir, I was quick to download and read it.

There are some parts of this booklet I really appreciated. He shares a bit of his own experience growing up, his disconnect with faith, than an experience that transformed his vision, seeing who he truly is as a son of God. We also find out the role writing has played in his spiritual life.

I appreciated Dekker's insight into how many of us experience our spiritual lives. There is an elephant in the room, he writes. “We are not being who we say we are.” Also, “We call ourselves Christians but we are not known for the kind of love Jesus said would mark His followers.”

Dekker wants to awaken us to a new way of being, The Forgotten Way. Forgotten: because we are prone to forget the truth of who we are, the truth that sets us free. Way: because the first believers called themselves people of the Way.

He gives a good synopsis of The Forgotten Way in five simple declarations. Here are just the main points:
  • God is infinitely good, God is infinitely complete
  • You are remade in the likeness and glory of your Father
  • Your journey now is to see who you truly are
  • You will only see and be who you are by surrendering your attachment to all other identities
  • Love, joy, and peace are the manifestation of your true identity
When it comes to the point of wanting to experience the same kind of transforming experience Dekker had, he directs us to where we can buy his 21 day devotional that will forever change the way we see ourselves and the world we live in.

Even though I was disappointed that this short work ended with a request to buy something from him, I think it is definitely worth reading. I gained some insight into the spiritual life of a favorite author and I was challenged to admit that there is an elephant in the room. I recommend it for those reasons.

It's a free download from Amazon and you can find it here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Ted Dekker is the best selling author of over thirty five novels. He and his family live in Austin, Texas. You can find out more at

Outlaw Studios, 27 pages.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Centralia by Mike Dellosso

I always know when I begin a Dellosso book I am in for a wild ride. This novel started off with a shock and just kept going.

Peter Ryan wakes up to an empty house. His wife and daughter are gone. He calls a friend only to be told they had been killed in an automobile accident. Didn't he remember? But Peter is haunted by faint memories and a sense that something is very wrong. He finds a hidden note in his daughter's handwriting that she and her mom have gone to Centralia. Then thugs show up at his house and Peter displays defensive skills he didn't know he had.

That is the beginning of a suspenseful plot where the action just keeps going. We follow Peter as he tries to escape those after him while he also tries to unravel who he is. He's supposed to work in a research lab. So how does he know armed combat techniques? Why is he a crack shot?

This is a good novel of what might be when the military wants to develop super warriors. It's a scary yet very possible world of training and mental manipulation.

It also gave me much to think about regarding memories and the past. One of the characters says, “What is your past other than a series of memories?” (258) Do we create a new past by what we remember? Can others change it for us by planting memories in our head? Do we believe lies about our past? Do we pay more attention to what our brain is telling us or what our heart is saying? And where does God fit into all of this?

I recommend this book to those who love action packed novels that make you think. Your mind will be swirling with what might be Peter's real past. The action was a bit repetitive and one of the escapes might have been just a little too easy and unexplained, but in general, this is a good novel.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Mike Dellosso is the author of seven other books of suspense. He is also an adjunct professor of creative writing and teaches regularly at writers' conferences. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and daughters. You can find out more at

Tyndale Fiction, 381 pages.

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Change Your Trajectory by Dale. C. Bronner

Bronner wants us to be proactive and be prepared for the change coming our way. It will come. He wants us to be in the flow of what God is doing and that means a new trajectory for us.

We are in for a journey, Bronner writes. He wants us to have joy and blessings on the way. He helps us understand the difference between transition and change. He advises us to adapt, improve, observe, and connect. He reminds us that God wants us us to draw closer to Him, especially in times of confusion. We must be obedient to God's direction.

Bronner walks us through the indications of a new trajectory. He has good teaching on how to be an active participant in and not a victim of change. He reminds us the importance of our thoughts and gives skills and practices to help us, like developing a vision.

I really appreciate that his book is not a get rich kind of book. He advocates hard work. “If it was an overnight success,” he writes, “ then it was a long, long night.” (151) He wants us to be industrious and take the initiative. He helps us deal with failure and gives practical ideas for the important discipline of prayer. He weaves in lessons from the Bible throughout.

I like how encouraging Bronner is, reminding us we are here at this time by God's doing and by His grace. God has uniquely qualified each of us for a task and Bronner wants us to be competent at it. He has good suggestions to that end. I especially love his “also” principle.

This is a good book for people who are facing a transition in their life or feel God is calling them to make a change. You'll find great encouragement and practical suggestions for your journey.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Dale C. Bronner has transitioned through many jobs and ministries. He was called to the pastorate at age twenty-seven and founded Word of Faith Family Worship Cathedral two years later. He is a conference speaker, leadership trainer, and author of several books. He and his wife live in Atlanta. They have five children and two grandchildren.

Whitaker House, 192 pages.

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

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Aleppo Code by Terry Brennan

This is the third book in The Jerusalem Prophecies series. One could possibly read it on its own as there is some review of the action of the previous novels given in this one. This series has a complex plot so I would recommend reading the others first. You can click on these links to read my reviews of The Sacred Cipher and The Brotherhood Conspiracy.

In the previous novels, a scroll was found in a secret room under the New York Bowery Mission. After the scroll is deciphered, Tom, the executive director of the mission, heads to Jerusalem to find the third temple. There is a huge earthquake that nearly destroys the Temple Mount. Israelis and Muslims fight over control of the area. Tom and his group try to prevent another world war but there is a strong Muslim contingent who want to restore the Caliphate and have world dominion.

This novel starts with the idea that there is something that Tom and his group have yet to do. We read about the Aleppo Codex, a book written in the tenth century. It had been captured by Crusaders and hidden for centuries. Then it was ransomed by Jews and again hidden for centuries. It is the most accurate representation of the Jewish Torah in existence. The notations in the margins contain the link that help Tom find Aaron's rod. Some Jewish thinkers associated it with the very power of God. The codex notes seem to indicate the rod was returned to the Garden of Eden, underneath the historic ruins of Babylon. Tom and his team set out to get the rod before the Islamic fundamentalists do and use its force for unimaginable evil.

Yes, the plot does sound like it has an element of the imaginative in it. The previous novels did too. There is discussion in the novel as to whether Aaron's rod really does has power in itself. Some conjecture that its use in the Egyptian plagues may find a parallel in the end time plagues recorded in Revelation. Like many of God's gifts, it seems it could be used for good or evil.

This is a good novel of adventure and suspense centered around a possible scenario of the end times. The Islamic fundamentalists are powerful and make moves toward controlling the world's finances and oil supplies, eventually aiming to take over the world. I thought that aspect of the plot was very possible. It is exciting to read about the power of God being revealed again, much as it was when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea.

There is lots of action and suspense in the novel. There are several stories going on at the same time. Brennan uses the technique of jumping from one location to another as the events unfold. At times it was a bit much for me. I also had difficulty picturing some of the action and its location. The emphasis is more on the intense action than in setting the scene.

This is a good novel for those who enjoy end times fiction. Alongside the imaginative existence and location of the Garden of Eden is a very possible narrative of the end times. Many elements in the novel are based on historical fact as noted by Brennan in an Author's Note. There really is the Aleppo Codex. Several of the places and people mentioned in the book are real. Brennan has done lots of research and we learn much about the situation in the Middle East.

You can watch a book trailer and read an excerpt here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Terry Brennan is an award winning author and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. He is currently the chief administrative officer for Care for the Homeless in New York City. You can find out more at

Kregel Publications, 384 pages.

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

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Worship Changes Everything by Darlene Zschech

Sometimes we forget how important worship is. We might just get used to God, taking his grandeur for granted. Zschech wants us to know the essential nature of worship so that we would again marvel at God.

Worship is an invitation from God. It begins with faith, Zschech says. She shares her own experience with worship and how it changed her life. Even though she is a worshiper at her core, her worship during her struggle with breast cancer strengthened her.

Zschech explains how we are to worship God every moment, not just in a corporate setting. That requires we not be preoccupied but realize God is always present. She shows how we worship through our service, allowing God's love to flow through us. We can worship God in our work, our marriage and our family. We can worship in the midst of our suffering, through the power of the Holy Spirit. She reminds us of the importance of our words and emotions and what they reveal. She has also included teaching on issues that keep us from worship, such as the need for forgiveness or the healing of hurts.

Zschech gives us many reasons to worship God. Even if one does not know where to start, she gives lots of ideas for praise and thanksgiving. She has included many examples from the Bible, including teaching from biblical narratives.

This is a good introduction to worship. Zschech reminds us of its importance and gives us plenty of ideas on how to be in an attitude of worship all day. For those who've read about worship, it is a good book to broaden our understanding of it and is an inspiration to live a life of worship.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Darlene Zschech is a singer, songwriter, worship leader, and speaker. She has many gold albums. In 2011, Mark and Darlene became senior pastors of Hope Unlimited Church on the Central Coast of New South Wales, where they now live with their family. You can find out more at

Bethany House Publishers, 256 pages.

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

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Eyes of Elisha by Brandilyn Collins

I frequently see the headlines where a Christian has received a vision of what God is doing in the end days. We've heard of those Holy Spirit promptings to pray for someone or perhaps contact them. But what would you do if God gave you a vision of a murder?

Since Chelsea had become a Christian, God had been giving her visions. Her husband, not a Christian, had tolerated them but found them troubling. Then she had a vision that changed their lives.

Chelsea had gone out to dinner with her husband and a potential new hire for her husband's firm. She had a vision unlike any other during that dinner. She experienced the very terrors of a young woman being murdered. She vaguely sees the murderer, but not clearly enough to identify the man. When she returns from her trance-like state, the potential employee is staring at her. Chelsea sees the evil in his eyes.

She goes to the police but they are not very responsive. She identifies the area of the murder from her vision and decides to investigate it on her own. She does find the body. That is a terrifying experience for her but the terror has just begun.

This is a good thriller with lots of issues to think about. If we receive some insight from God, what is our responsibility? What if we get it wrong? Would God let us misinterpret a vision, even when it means harm to others? How do we relate a vision to unbelievers? If you're a Christian detective, as one character in the novel is, how do you react when you have a vision of a murder related to you? Just how much evidence should be required for a murder conviction?

The characters are well crafted. There is a good mixture of Christians and unbelievers and the tension between them is well presented, from marriage to police detectives. I highly recommend this novel to those who like thought provoking suspense.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Brandilyn Collins is the best-selling author of the Seatbelt Suspense novels with character driven suspense. She has won numerous awards, including the ACFW Carol Award, Inspirational Readers' Choice, the INSPY, Christian Retailer's Best Award, and Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice. Born in India of missionary parents, she and her husband now live in the Pacific Northwest. You can find out more at

Challow Press, 400 pages.

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

Friday, November 20, 2015

Proverbs Prayers by John Mason

Reading the Bible is an important part of a Christian's spiritual growth. I know that many of you read through the book of Proverbs each month, a chapter a day. But what about actually praying the words you read?

Mason felt the Lord challenging him to do that very thing several years ago. As he did, the Word came alive to him and he began to see good changes in his life.

Mason has written this book to help you pray through Proverbs too. In thirty-one days you will have read through each chapter of Proverbs and prayed a corresponding prayer.

As I have gone through this book, praying through each chapter in Proverbs, I have been inspired, convicted, challenged, and more. This has been an amazing experience.

Here are a few of the prayers:
Lord, I choose to listen to Your wisdom today.”
Lord, help me walk with good people and stay on the right path today.”
Today I choose to trust You with all of my heart and not depend on my own understanding.”
Lord, keep me from saying deceptive and vulgar words.”
Are there any areas of laziness in my life, Lord? Please reveal them to me.”
Lord, I want to keep Your Word and capture Your commandments deep within my heart today.”

And that is just from the first week!

Praying through the Proverbs is a great reminder of who God is and what He desires from us. “Teach me to love instruction and knowledge today, Lord.” “Help me to avoid saying things that might hurt other people.” It is also great encouragement. “Thank You, Father, that Your truth always outlives a lie. A lie may win in the short run, but it never lasts long because truth endures forever.”

I found this book to be a good example of the practice of praying Scripture. If you have had difficulty understanding how that discipline works, this book will really help you.

Mason ends his book with a list of Proverbs Principles. He includes topics like anger, discipline, friends, humility, laziness, patience, trust, and many more. He gives the verse from Proverbs and then a short teaching. This is a great help for concentrating on a particular subject.

I highly recommend this book. At the end of thirty-one days, says Mason, wisdom will be your friend. You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

John Mason is a minister, coach, noted speaker, and author with over 1.6 million copies of his books in print. He is the founder and president of Insight International, an organization dedicated to helping people reach their dreams and fulfill their destiny. He and his wife live in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Learn more about him at

Revell, 176 pages.

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

Thursday, November 19, 2015

One More Step by Rachel "Wojo" Wojnarowski

What an encouraging book! Wojnarowski starts off by reminding us that based on Psalm 88, God longs to listen to our sad songs, our heart's cry. “God would rather hear about your bad day than not hear from you at all.” God understands our feelings and our need to express them. Even when we don't understand His plan or miss the lessons He wants us to get, we are in a good place when we are desperate for Him.

This is a good book for people who feel crushed. Perhaps all your friends have left you. Wojnarowski gives you permission to ache freely. She understands. She shares her own story, weaving into it lessons from Bible stories. She helps to identify misplaced hope. She helps you grasp how much God loves you. She knows about being in the desert, waiting on God, not understanding His plan. She's struggled to understand why God allows some things to happen and knows the difficulty of living in faith. She also knows about receiving and sharing God's grace.

This is a good book for people dealing with an overwhelming situation. She'll help you know how to forgive others when they let you down. She has suggestions for replacing negative internal chatter with truth, for getting rest, reaching out, finding joy, letting go of dreams, and more.

Wojnarowski describes herself as an example of brokenness that has been transformed into God's masterpiece – an unfinished project. She has written this book as a spiritual encouragement born out of her own experience. I highly recommend it.

She has included important verses at the end of each chapter as well as ideas for practical responses to her teaching. There is also a four week discussion guide at the end of the book. You can also find many additional resources at and read a sample chapter here.

Rachel “Wojo” Wojnarowski is a blogger and writer. She leads community ladies' Bible studies in central Ohio and serves as a creative consultant and speaker. She is wife to Matt and mom to seven children. You can find out more at

WaterBrook Press, 224 pages.

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Christ or Chaos by Dan DeWitt

Every perspective of reality contains an inherent narrative,” DeWitt writes. “Every worldview is a novel. Each has an author, a beginning and an end.” The question, he says, is not which story is most interesting but which one is actually true.

DeWitt supposes a discussion between Thomas and his friend since childhood, Zach. Thomas reevaluates his faith in light of Zach's comments. Zach is now an atheist, holding a great deal of resentment toward his religious past.

This book helps readers walk through an experience where faith and friendship are held in tension. Each chapter of the book focuses on an aspect of Christianity that would probably be discussed in such a dialog. The essential question is whether atheism can really explain the world we experience or not.

DeWitt writes about a number of topics. I liked his exploration of presuppositions. They are assumptions about reality that cannot be proved. They compose the ground upon which we build our worldview. For the atheist, DeWitt mentions eternal, impersonal, and mindless matter. Thomas goes back to Genesis to see if the atheist view provides a consistent explanation for creation and life, or if it is better explained by the Christian worldview. DeWitt reminds us that there are many theories about origins but there is no conclusive evidence that can prove any position.

Among other topics is that of dissonance. It is a psychological term for believing something to be true but experiencing the opposite. Our experience must match our belief system. Our human experience is a clue to reality, he suggests. Our deepest hopes can be fulfilled only by the gospel.

This would be a good book for those willing to enter into a dialog about belief, especially at the college level. It is not a academic in style but is more conversational and is therefore very readable. It's small size keeps it from seeming too intimidating to give to your atheist friend.

My rating: 4/5 stars. (Note: this book releases 1/31/2016.)

Dan DeWitt (PhD, Southern Seminary) is the dean of Boyce College, the undergraduate school of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses on worldview, philosophy, apologetics, and C. S. Lewis.

Crossway, 144 pages.

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Death Before Decaf by Caroline Fardig

Fans of Stephanie Plum will find this novel quite entertaining. While there weren't as many laugh out loud scenes as in some of the early Plum novels, it is a fun romp through the crazy world of Juliet Langley.

The novel starts out with Juliet back at the Java Jive, where she had worked during college. She had been able to realize her dream, her own restaurant. But when her fiance had recently run off with her money and her best waitress, she'd had to close the restaurant doors. She would be managing the coffee shop, helping out her friend Pete.

Her new job got off to a bad start when she had to put a couple employees in their place and that evening one of them is found dead. Juliet, having found the body and having argued with the man earlier, is a prime suspect. She determines to find the killer herself.

And what a crazy experience she has. She gets into all kinds of unbelievable situations. A frequent Java Jive customer, Ryder, manages to rescue her several times. Soon there is a chemistry between them. That complicates Juliet's life and then her investigations turn deadly.

This series is off to a good start. It could be funnier but it is a good alternative to those, like me, who are getting tired of Plum. Juliet gets herself into some crazy situations. It's a pretty decent mystery too. There aren't the quirky characters that have made the Plum novels so entertaining. There is the love triangle, sort of.

It should be noted that there is some serious “language” in this novel. Readers of the Plum novels will be used to that, however.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Caroline Fardig is the author of the Lizzie Hart mysteries. She's been a school teacher, church organist, insurance agent, worked in a funeral home and was a stay-at-home mom before she realized she wanted to write. She and her husband and their two children live in the same Indiana town in which she was born and raised. You can find out more about her and her books at

Alibi (Random House), 288 pages.

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

Beautiful Star of Bethlehem by Lori Copeland

This was a bit of a disturbing novella for me. Rather than being a lighthearted experience, I found it very serious and a little depressing.

The story begins with a shock. A very loving couple experiences a plane crash as they are on their way to see their first granddaughter. Arlene receives brain damage and is taken to a care facility by her sons. The rest of the novella is pretty much her experiences in the facility.

There are sad moments and less sad moments. There are some moments that could be funny except that in the context of the story and the care facility, I just did not think them funny. Arlene's brain injury results in her not knowing her sons nor her granddaughter. She had not been told that her husband had died. She thinks he is just on a business trip and will return shortly. That was just heartbreaking to read about.

All that being said, there are some moving scenes in the book. There is an odd friendship between Arlene and a few of the other residents. Even in her debilitated mental state, Arlene still dispenses some wisdom and love to others and that was sweet. And the end is very rewarding.

Maybe young people would like this novella. For a senior citizen like me, it was mostly depressing, perhaps too close to home. I've seen too many people I know go into those kinds of facilities and, like Arlene, not really be very happy.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Lori Copeland began writing for the secular market in 1982. In 1995, she sensed God calling her to honor Him with her gift and began writing for the Christian market. She is the author of more than 100 titles with more than 3 million copies in print. She and her husband live in the Ozarks. You can find out more at

Barbour Publishing, 192 pages.

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