Sunday, April 30, 2017

Historical and Theological Foundations of Law by John Eidsmoe

Laws are everywhere. Every society has law in some form. Where did law come from? Is there something innate in man or is their a higher source of law? Eidsmoe answers these kinds of questions as a result of his investigating the legal systems of ancient and modern societies.

This is a three volume set. The first volume looks at ancient legal systems such as Egypt, India, China, etc. He investigates how their legal systems came to be, whether there are common aspects, and the possible source. He then focuses on the ancient Hebrew system of law and why it is frequently ignored today. He pays particular attention to Greek and Roman law and the Sharia law of Islam in the second volume. He also investigates the rise of the Common Law of the West and its roots. He explores the Reformation in the third volume and how legal philosophers wrote of law in a modern way. He then shows how the Common Law traveled to the Americas and provided the background for the founding documents of the United States.

This is an amazingly comprehensive work of 1,500 pages. It is a tremendous resource for anyone interested in the nature, purpose and source of law. It is not the kind of collection one would read quickly. It may take months to work through the information it contains. A comprehensive index is included at the end of each volume.

Readers may find a few surprises, such as Eidsmoe pointing out the fallacy of having an evolutionary concept of the development of law. He offers proof that the United States is unique in its Judeo-Christian heritage, especially in the influence of the ancient law systems, including the Hebrew laws of the Old Testament.

I recommend this comprehensive investigation to those readers interested in the origin of our laws and how they developed. Questions for reflection and discussion are included at the end of each chapter.

You can download an excerpt here.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

John Eidsmoe is a retired Lt. Colonel in the Air Force and serves as Professor of Constitutional Law and related subjects for the Oak Brook College of Law & Government Policy. He is also an Adjunct Professor for Handong International Law School in South Korea and for the Institute of Lutheran Theology. He has received Outstanding Professor Award or Prof of the Year Award five times. He holds seven academic degrees and currently serves as Senior Counsel and Resident Scholar for the Foundation for Moral Law. He has written 14 books and produced numerous lecture albums and is a popular speaker for churches and civic organizations. He and his wife have three children, three grandchildren, and live in rural Pike Road, Alabama.

Nordskog Publishing, 1500 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this three volume set through The Book Club Network. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Straightened by Alana Terry

Terry doesn't stay clear of controversial issues and she has tackled a serious one in this novel. Kennedy gets in the center of a family difficulty when a teen in Carl's congregation comes out as gay. Before it long there is a murder and devastating disaster.

The plot is a good mix of exploring a controversial issue and relationships between the people involved. Pastor Carl has a compassionate yet firm view while his youth pastor is open to a greater level of acceptance. Both feel passionate about their position yet are able to discuss the issue rather calmly. Terry relates the various views through character dialog in a way that is informative but not preachy. Terry did steer away from relating New Testament passages on the issue.

To broaden the novel a bit Terry included the interesting side issue of adoption, especially when it involves a child from another culture. Another interesting issue was prayer. Kennedy expresses her feeling about the difficulty of being persistent in prayer.

This is the fourth book in this series but can easily be read on its own. Terry has included references to previous events in Kennedy's life when needed. Kennedy is more of an observer in this novel so her past experiences are not essential to appreciating this story.

Terry's goal was not to promote a position but rather provide a framework for discussion. Several of the characters have differing views of homosexuality, each presenting their own in the course of the novel. Terry wanted to get her readers to think more deeply on the issue. A very good set of Discussion Questions are included for group or personal reflection. I recommend this book to those willing to read about and discuss this serious issue.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Alana Terry is a pastor's wife, homeschooling mom and award winning Christian suspense author. She and her family life in rural Alaska. You can find out more at

Firstfruits Publishing, 266 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the author. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Behind the Scenes by Jen Turano

To order your copy, click here.

About the Book

Book: Behind the Scenes  

Author: Jen Turano  

Genre: Inspirational Historical Romance

Release Date: April, 2017

Miss Permilia Griswold may have been given the opportunity of a debut into New York high society, but no one warned her she wasn’t guaranteed to “take.” After spending the last six years banished to the wallflower section of the ballroom, she’s finally putting her status on the fringes of society to good use by penning anonymous society gossip columns under the pseudonym “Miss Quill.”

Mr. Asher Rutherford has managed to maintain his status as a reputable gentleman of society despite opening his own department store. While pretending it’s simply a lark to fill his time, he has quite legitimate reasons for needing to make his store the most successful in the country. When Permilia overhears a threat against the estimable Mr. Rutherford, she’s determined to find and warn the man. Disgruntled at a first meeting that goes quite poorly and results in Asher not believing her, she decides to take matters into her own hands, never realizing she’ll end up at risk as well.

As Asher and Permilia are forced to work together and spend time away from the spotlight of society, perhaps there’s more going on behind the scenes than they ever could have anticipated. . . .

My review:

I love Turano's novels. They are funny, have quirky characters, a bit of romance, and are even thought provoking.

This novel starts off with a Vanderbilt ball where one of the ladies has a dress with chicken feathers glued to it. Later on that same woman, thanks to her employer, has an orange face. It may sound crazy but makes sense because of her eccentric employer.

The most enjoyable aspect of the humorous side of this novel is the snappy dialog. Permilia has quite the ability to communicate exactly what she is thinking. Raised as somewhat of a tomboy by her mine owning father, she is now trying to be molded into high society by her persnickety stepmother. That is a recipe for disaster and Permilia feels free to express her thoughts about it.

The other characters are great too. Poor Asher. He's a gentleman who doesn't quite know what hit him when Permilia crashes into his controlled and predictable life. She is a very capable woman, something a society woman of her day was not supposed to be. Their “romance” is something else.

The novel is informative too. This was a time when women were beginning to think toward gaining the right to vote and the right to work where they wanted. Permilia is a very forward thinking woman and some of the reactions to her opinions are priceless.

Parts of this novel could have been trimmed a bit. It may not be Turano's best. Nonetheless, it is a good historical novel with humor, quirky characters, a different kind of romance, and an informative setting.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

You can read the prequel novella, At Your Request, a free Kindle download available here. It contains an extended excerpt of Behind the Scenes. You can read my review of At Your Request here.

About the Author

Jen Turano, author of nine books and two novellas, is a graduate of the University of Akron with a degree in clothing and textiles. She is a member of ACFW and lives in a suburb of Denver, Colorado. Visit her website at

Interview With Jen Turano

  1. What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you personally?
Amusing things happen to me all the time, but I think my favorite was back in college when I was a lifeguard. You see, there’s a lifeguard code – You will be cool at all times, especially when you’re sitting in a lifeguard chair, twirling your whistle exactly so, and, you know…looking cool. So, there I was, in my black lifeguard bathing suit – swinging my whistle. It was an unusually hot day, so I’d angled my umbrella exactly right as I watched the diving-board section. Now, I know this might come as a surprise, but being a lifeguard at the neighborhood pool isn’t exactly thrilling. It’s rare that anything exciting happens, and that particular day was no exception…until a large gust of wind came out of nowhere and the umbrella took it upon itself to close – right over me. And because it was now really gusty, the umbrella then lifted up, taking me with it right off the chair and into the depths of the deep end of the pool. From all accounts, it was quite the sight. First, there I was, swinging my whistle and looking groovy. Then all you could see were my legs flailing about as the umbrella covered the rest of me, and then…I was plummeting toward the pool, hit the water with the umbrella over me, and promptly sank. Obviously I managed to get out of the umbrella, but in the process, part of my bathing suit came off, and…well, that’s a story for another day.
  1. What is your favorite book from your childhood?
“Andrew Henry’s Meadow.” It was actually my little brother’s book, gotten from one of those book of the month clubs, but I loved it. I recently found a copy on an e-site and ordered it, and it’s just as delightful today as it was back in my childhood.
  1. Who does the cooking and cleaning in your house when you are on a deadline?
I don’t actually cook much even when I’m not on deadline, so that’s not really an issue. Al and I do a lot of salads or throw some chicken on the grill. We also have a lot of grocery stores that have wonderful deli and gourmet foods, so we get a lot of things there. As for cleaning, I’m one of those neurotic people who can’t work without everything being in place, so I do a lot of tidying up before I go to bed. And, because I do some of my best thinking when I clean, I’ve been known to abandon my writing when I get stuck and pick up a mop or cleaning rag, which means my house is rarely a disaster since I need to get unstuck a lot.
  1. Where is your favorite place to write?
I do the majority of my writing in my office, although I will occasionally take a pad of paper and a pen outside to handwrite when I get bored of my office or it’s a really nice day and I don’t feel like being trapped inside. It’s not that my office is my favorite place to write, it’s more that my writing is my job and I’m more focused on that writing when I approach it as such.
  1. What is your favorite part of the writing process?
I really like when characters and new story ideas begin to fester. That normally happens when I’m in the midst of another series. By the time I’m done with whatever series I’m working on, the next series is pretty firmly set in my mind, which means I can jump right in as I wait for edits on recently completed work. My absolute favorite part of writing, though, is when I turn in the very final edit on a book and don’t see it again until it comes out in print. Although, I must admit, I’ve never, not once, read one of my books after it has gone to print. Seems rather pointless since I do always know how the book is going to end.
  1. Why did you choose the timeframe or setting this book is written in?
I’ve been wanting to set a book during Alva Vanderbilt’s famous costume ball of March, 1883, for years. Since I decided to slowly travel through the Gilded Age, I just reached 1883 on my plot timeline, so knew I was finally going to get to throw some characters into the very midst of Alva’s ball. It was a blast to write, loved going back to all my books on this particular ball and seeing the pictures, and only wish the Vanderbilt house at 660 Fifth Avenue was still standing so I could visit it in person to visualize the splendors located inside a little more clearly.
  1. What inspires you?
I think like most writers, I simply get inspired by the world around me. I love to people watch, and I love to imagine all sorts of outlandish scenarios as I do that watching. I also get inspired by reading the headlines of the daily papers, and by the research books I read. I also love to look through old photographs of the Gilded Age, and became intrigued with Alva Vanderbilt’s ball when I saw a picture of a young lady, Miss Kate Strong, with a stuffed cat on her head and wearing a choker necklace with the name Puss engraved on it. That was all it took for me to investigate the Vanderbilt ball further, delighted to discover it truly was a ball that only comes along every blue moon.

Blog Stops

April 27: The Scribbler
April 27: Genesis 5020
April 28: Back Porch Reads
April 29: Bookworm Mama
April 30: Radiant Light
April 30: Bigreadersite
April 30: Lane Hill House
May 3: Book by Book
May 5: Baker Kella

I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Actress by Michael Hicks Thompson

This Christian historical mystery takes place in the 1960s in a rural southern town. The heroine is Martha, owner of the town's newspaper. A well known actress comes to town as part of a group making a movie. The actress shoots and kills a local man. She claims he was an intruder but Martha suspects there is something else going on.

This is a somewhat complex mystery with many layers of motives and facts that are uncovered little by little. There are some interesting issues that are dealt with through the plot. One is capital punishment. Martha thinks the crew is making a film of her book as she received payment for it. She finds out the film will actually be about an execution. The film company scripts the execution to appear inhumane. Martha was a witness and knows the script is a lie. She is livid and tries to figure out a way to stop the movie production.

Another issue is a theological one. Martha and the Episcopal priest have a discussion on predestination. The priest has a decidedly conservative Reformed view, something I found surprising, but then, this was the 1960s.

Martha is an interesting heroine. She is relentless in solving the mystery and frequently runs afoul of the local sheriff. The author is male yet did a reasonable job of developing a female lead.

I recommend this novel to readers who would like a small town mystery set in the south several decades ago.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Michael Hicks Thompson was raised on a small farm in Mississippi. He graduated from Ole Miss, served in the military, then received a master's degree in mass communication from the University of South Carolina. He and his wife have three adult sons and four grandchildren. You can find out more at

Shepherd King Publishing, 288 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the author. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Chamberlain Key by Timothy P. Smith with Bob Hostetler

Smith had some puzzling dreams and an appearance (or vision) of Moses. He was led to look at the Hebrew text of Genesis. He had six sons and a daughter, as did Jacob and Leah so examined Genesis 30:20-23. He found his name in an equidistant letter sequence (ELS) as well as other significant information. That led him on a journey of pursuing the possibility of other significant equidistant letter words and phrases.

The book is more of a spiritual memoir than a scientific study. Smith writes, “My objective in attempting to decipher hidden information in the Old Testament was not to prove to anyone that the text was encrypted or to attempt to predict any future events but rather to unravel the mystery of my own spiritual experiences.” (185, 186) He has done a good job of recounting his own spiritual journey finding hidden words in the Hebrew text.

However, Smith also writes that his discovery “will dramatically redirect biblical scholarship, Christian theology, and perhaps even the trajectory of history itself.” (1) That is a huge claim and one, I think, that is very over blown.

Finding words in the Hebrew through equidistant letter searches is nothing new. The concept has been been known since the thirteenth century. Smith mentions a paper by Rips, Witztum and Rosenberg published in 1994 in which they claimed to have detected encoded information in the Hebrew text. The concept was popularized in The Bible Code by Michael Drosnin, published in 1997. Many articles critical of the claims were published after that time. Some even went so far as to apply the equidistant letter sequence technique to common literature. Hidden messages were found in Moby Dick and War and Peace. (See note below.) The conclusion was that anecdotal messages could be found everywhere in written works and seemed to be just a phenomenon of language and random chance.

Add that there are no vowels in Hebrew and that increases the subjectivity of the ELS phenomenon. Is it Tim, Tom, tame, time, tome? The identification of the word may be a result of the influence of the one searching.

I am surprised that this topic has arisen again. The concept seemed to be pretty much discounted back in the late 1990s. The publisher of this book, WaterBrook, even published a book in 1999 critical of equidistant letter sequencing called Who Wrote the Bible Code? by Randy Ingermanson. Ingermanson had written several critical articles on the subject. When he transferred his web site to new technology, he didn't transfer those articles because he considered it a “dead subject” and doubted “anyone much cares anymore.” (See note below.)

What is the significance of this book? It is a good account of one person and his spiritual experiences. Smith sees his ELS experience as confirmation of the existence of God. (79) Researchers who have found significant ESL words and phrases in common literature would not agree. Smith says he is going to investigate further. You can watch a book trailer, read an excerpt, and find future articles on his research at Time will tell the significance of this book.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Timothy P. Smith is a noted appraiser and conservator of artifacts and antiques. He and his wife live in Virginia.
Bob Hostetler is the award winning author of more than thirty books. His books have sold over three million copies.

Waterbrook, 224 pages.

NOTE: You can follow links to articles about finding significant ELS events in Moby Dick and War and Peace at One author found his name, birth date, and place of residence in significant relationship in the Hebrew of War and Peace, much as Smith found in the Hebrew of Genesis. You can find Randy Ingermanson's comments at Accessed 4/24/2017.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Big City Heat by David Burnsworth

Big City Heat: A Brack Pelton Mystery

by David Burnsworth

on Tour April 24 - May 26, 2017


Lowcountry bar owner and ex-Marine Brack Pelton heads to Atlanta in the wake of a panicked 3 AM phone call. A woman is missing and Brack’s friend Mutt is in danger. Brack’s old flame, investigative news correspondent Darcy Wells, now lives there and is set to marry another man. If Brack was honest with himself, and he usually wasn’t, he’d realize that the missing woman isn’t the reason for his visit. His Semper Fi buddy Mutt can handle himself just fine.
When Brack and Mutt team up to find the woman, the Atlanta underworld revolts, the two biggest players target them, and people start dying. Most people would size up the situation, call it impossible, and walk away. But most people are not Brack Pelton. Impossible situations are his specialty. He made it through Afghanistan and when the military commanders mistook suicidal tendencies for leadership qualities they promoted him. Can Brack succeed at finding the woman, protecting his friend, and winning the girl without destroying the Capital of the South? Not since Sherman’s march across Georgia has the city of Atlanta been in this much danger.

My review:

This is a shoot 'em up novel. I lost track of how many bad guys Brack killed. There is certainly more action in the novel than there is character development. Brack is a dark hero. I did not find him very likable, although he was very loyal to his friends and relentless in rescuing Cassie's sister. His background was a bit fuzzy for me. How did an ex-Marine and bar owner afford a hundred and twenty-five thousand dollar Porsche (two syllables)? And how can he kill so many people and never get arrested?
This is the third in the series but the only one I've read. There are many references to past events but not so much how all the characters came to know each other and behave the way they do. For example, the restaurants and bars and their owners were inter-related from past novels. It was difficult to keep it all straight and I felt like I was coming into an existing story. I would suggest the previous novels in the series be read before this one.
I recommend this novel to readers who like a dark hero, a man with strong loyalty to his friends but doesn't think twice about shooting a bad guy. You'll get a tour through the dark side of Atlanta, interspersed with gun fights and car chases as the body count increases.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Henery Press
Publication Date: April 25, 2017
Number of Pages: 212
ISBN: 9781635111996
Series: A Brack Pelton Mystery Book, 3
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me...
Psalm 23:4

Atlanta, Georgia, Wednesday night, Mid-May
Brack Pelton waited in his Porsche by a no-parking zone in a very bad part of the city and watched someone he thought he knew well climb out of an old Eldorado convertible. The man entered a ramshackle building with a neon beer mug shining through its one dirty window.
Easing away from the red-marked bus stop, Brack found a better location down the block and pulled in. Before getting out of the Porsche, he woke Shelby, his tan mixed-breed dog slumbering in the backseat, and pulled a forty-five from the glovebox. He verified a round was chambered.
Shelby licked his lips and gave a quick bark as Brack slid the pistol down the back waistband of his cargo shorts.
Patting his dog on the head, Brack asked, “Ready?” A needless question. Another bark affirmed Shelby’s stand on things.
“When we get inside, your job is to find Mutt. Okay?” Shelby licked his face. Brack knew that as long as their target hadn’t escaped out some back door, Shelby would find him. Mutt was one of his favorite people. Brack’s too. That was why tracking him like this went against everything he believed in doing.
Mutt was the one who often rode shotgun with Brack as they’d right Charleston’s wrongs. Now Mutt was the one in the crosshairs. Thanks to an early morning phone call from Cassie, Mutt’s girlfriend, a life depended on answers his friend would give. The forty-five wouldn’t come out unless trouble came up.
The barroom’s rusty screen door screeched open. Shelby darted ahead, already focused on his objective. Brack entered a time warp. Uncanny how even the sour bar wash fragrance and cigarette smoke were the same. Through the old familiar haze, he imagined Mutt standing behind a peeling Formica counter pouring drinks to patrons who could barely afford their rent. Somehow, Mutt had managed to replicate his termite-infested watering hole three hundred miles west of where his original joint stood before some spoiled neighborhood brat burned it down.
“You lost?” A very large African-American man wearing a soiled wife-beater chalking a pool cue confronted the white newcomer.
Meeting his gaze, Brack said, “No. I’m looking for a loudmouth Marine named Mutt. If he’s here drinking, the rounds are on me. If he owns this place, I’m going to beat the life out of him.”
“Big talk coming from someone in yo’ shoes,” he said. Four other men flanked him, two on each side, all with arms folded across their meaty chests. Five soiled wife-beaters in a row. A worn-out AC unit clicked and sputtered, failing to condition the polluted air in the establishment.
Shelby seemed to take longer than usual to find Mutt. Only one thing could sidetrack him. But no women had ever been present in the original Mutt’s Bar in Charleston. They’d been afraid to enter the place.
Maybe Atlanta women were different. Casually Brack removed the half-smoked cigar he’d been saving in his pocket and lit it. The only faithful friend he had left at the moment was his own adrenaline. Brack was angry at Mutt and wouldn’t mind working it out of his system on these five gentlemen facing him.
Three more joined them. Okay, these eight gentlemen.
Brack felt more gather behind him. His wayward dog better have a real good excuse for not warning him.
Taking a drag on the stogie, he exhaled a cloud of smoke to add to the carcinogenic fog. “It’s going to be a bad day for some of you.”
Chuckles echoed around the room, undoubtedly at his expense.
Mutt pushed his way through the gathering mob. A few inches over six feet, he’d replaced his boxed Afro with a close trim since the last time Brack had seen him. His clothes were of a more recent vintage, another change, and to Brack’s untrained eye, quite stylish.
“Opie, you always got to do things the hard way, don’t ’cha?” Brack couldn’t decide if he wanted to punch him or shake his hand. The fact that his friend sported a bridge that replaced his missing front teeth also caught him off guard.
Shelby was not with Mutt. From behind, Brack heard the gruff words, “You want us to take this cracker out back, Mutt?”
Mutt knew as well as Brack did that they were greatly outnumbered. But Brack figured Mutt also knew that a few of his patrons would spend the next few weeks in the hospital if things went south.
Before either of them could say anything, a husky female voice came from somewhere in the crowd. “You got the prettiest dog.”
All the men turned in the direction of the voice. Through a break in the undershirt line, Brack observed a heavyset black woman in a way-too-tight purple body suit. Clearly she’d fallen in love with his dog. Her extra-long orange day-glo fingernails scratched behind his ears.
Sitting on his haunches with closed eyes, Shelby flapped his tongue and panted in what Brack recognized as pure bliss. Two other women wearing similar attire also gave Shelby their full attention. Brack was about to get pummeled by eight or more hulks itching to right the wrongs of their world, yet his dog had managed to pick up what looked like all the women in the establishment.
The spokesman for the wife-beater ensemble said, “We ain’t finished wit you, white boy.”
Brack turned back to him. Mutt got between them. “Easy, Charlie. He’s my brother.” The men looked at each other as if Mutt and Brack could possibly be related. Of course, they weren’t in the traditional sense.
“Summertime” by Billy Stewart began to play somewhere in the room. A real classic.
Circling Shelby, the women moved their ample hips to the beat. The dog, in plus-sized heaven, spun around, not sure which lady to kiss first.
A fourth woman Brack hadn’t noticed until now came from behind the bar to stand beside Mutt. Almost as tall as Brack, with dark brown skin, a buzzed haircut, and toned figure bordering on muscular. Her inked-up arms momentarily distracted Brack.
The man Mutt called Charlie said, “I don’t care who you think he is. He ain’t got the juice to come in here talking about beatin’ you up.”
Mutt turned to his old friend. “You said you was gonna beat me up?”
“Something like that.” Brack cocked his head. “I get a call begging me to drive here from Charleston. It’s Cassie. She’s scared half to death because some men threatened her, and she doesn’t know what you do when you leave her house late at night. Put yourself in her shoes.”
The woman bartender looked at him. “You must be Brack.” Mutt interrupted. “Opie, I’ma tell you like I tol’ Cassie. What I do is my bidness. She ain’t got no right to ask.”
Charlie moved in like he was about to throw a punch. Before Brack could react, the toned female bartender grabbed Charlie by the shirt collar and said, “You really don’t want to do that.”
Mutt said, “Easy there, Tara. We all friends here.” She didn’t let go. Charlie backed off. Brack dropped what was left of his cigar on the floor, crushed it with his foot, and turned back to Mutt. “You better tell me what’s going on, or I will beat the ever-living daylights out of you.”
Excerpt from Big City Heat: A Brack Pelton Mystery by David Burnsworth. Copyright © 2017 by David Burnsworth. Reproduced with permission from David Burnsworth. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

David Burnsworth became fascinated with the Deep South at a young age. After a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tennessee and fifteen years in the corporate world, he made the decision to write a novel. He is the author of both the Brack Pelton and the Blu Carraway Mystery Series. Having lived in Charleston on Sullivan’s Island for five years, the setting was a foregone conclusion. He and his wife call South Carolina home.

Catch Up With Our Author On: Website, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!


Tour Participants:

Click here to view the Big City Heat by David Burnsworth Book Tour Participants

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review..

Sunday, April 23, 2017

How to Break Growth Barriers by Carl F. George and Warren Bird

The authors report that eighty-five percent of churches in the U.S. have fewer than 200 members. There are some growing churches, some stable churches, and many dying churches. This book helps us understand why.

George and Bird have updated the book that originally came out in 1993. The principles of church growth included are ones they have seen work for decades. Those core ideas remain the same.

I like the book. I like the idea of a team approach, training leaders, empowering them, trusting the Holy Spirit to enable lay people to do the work of ministry. I like the emphasis on the necessity of prayer. I like their reminding us of the need for small groups or cells. I like that the authors say church growth is more a matter of the heart than a certain technique.

It came as no surprise that the attitude of the pastor is the major determining factor for growth. The days of the pastor doing all the care should be long over. There should be a change of paradigm in church leadership. But it may be terrifying for a pastor to relinquish the ministry most pastors traditionally do themselves. Change first has to happen in ministers, the authors argue. They set the stage for permitting growth or hindering it. Ministry coaching, developing a team of care giving individuals is key.

The authors have done a great job presenting a book containing many practical ideas. Church leaders can evaluate their church structure, vision and leadership style. They receive instruction on evaluating motives, developing a vision for growth, and training lay ministry leaders and workers. Questions for further thought have been included at the end of each chapter so this book could be used for study by a church board or other leadership group.

I recommend this book to those who truly believe there is a potential spiritual harvest in store for their church. You'll find out what is hindering growth. You'll also find out how to implement the heart attitudes and behaviors necessary to break growth barriers. Ministers, you'll need to step aside and let lay people be used of God but the spiritual rewards will be worth it.

You can download an excerpt here.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Carl F. George is an experienced pastor, church growth consultant, and author of previous books on church life. He is former director of the Charles E. Fuller Institute of Evangelism and Church Growth and former president of the American Society for Church Growth. He and his wife live near Greenville, South Carolina.
Warren Bird is research director for Leadership Network. He is an ordained minister and teaches at Alliance Theological Seminary. He is the author or coauthor of twenty eight books. He and his wife live in a suburb of New York City.

Baker Books, 256 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

I Am Number 8 by John W. Gray III

I like Gray's idea. David was son number eight. He was a nobody out in the fields when his brothers were being inspected for a potential anointing as king. Nonetheless, David was chosen by God, transformed, and played a big part in God's story.

Gray's book is for those of us who feel like we are nobody. Hang in there, Gray encourages. Just like with David, God is training us and cultivating leadership and ministry skills. We might feel hidden away but Gray says that is for a purpose. We are not hiding from but are being hidden for a future, being kept for something to come.

Gray shares his own story as an example of this principle. He combines it with lessons from David's life. We learn about fighting giants, worship, and how we don't always get it right. Gray provides good encouragement for when we fill like we don't fit in or that we are just sitting on the sidelines. He has some good teaching on how to have the strength to carry on.

There is one area where I think Gray projected his own life experience on to David. Gray's father was absent. He says of David, “I believe that everything in David's life, good and bad, can be traced to his relationship with his father.” (113) That is a bit much, I think.

This book is good encouragement for those of us who don't think much of ourselves. We might feel we are just unknown and ordinary people who could never be used by God in an extraordinary way. But then, so was David.

Anonymity is the cloak God uses to develop, foster, prune, and then ultimately produce greatness.” (23)

My rating: 4/5 stars.

John W. Gray III is the associate pastor of America's largest church, Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. He preaches at Lakewood's midweek service, where attendance has quadrupled over the last several years. He is also a popular speaker, emcee, and comedian for “Acquire the Fire” youth rallies held all over the United States. He lives in Houston with his wife and their children.

FaithWords, 224 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Invitation by Myers, Peretti, Hunt and Gansky

This book contains four stories, each written by a different author. The authors are friends and wanted to do something different and this book is the result. They established a couple of rules. First, each author would write as if a character. Myers writes as a tattoo artist who sees images of the future. Peretti writes as a professor, an atheist ruled by logic. Hunt writes as Andi, the professor's geeky assistant who can see inexplicable patterns. Gansky writes as Tank, a big-hearted jock with healing power. The other rule was that these stories should read like a TV series with an overarching story line, with each individual story fitting in.

Myer's novella sets the stage. We learn about the major characters, are introduced to the strange training center in the desert, and experience some suspense. Peretti's novella takes us to a house in the Pacific Northwest that tells the truth and where we experience some eerie suspense. Hunt's novella finds the group on a Florida shore facing the mystery of birds and fish dying in vast numbers. Gansky's novella finds the group in Oregon, on the trail of a mysterious young girl who can walk through fences and over barns.

I enjoyed this collection of stories, following the ongoing adventures of the motley collection of characters. Each novella reveals a little more about the characters, their back grounds, etc. There is a prominent spiritual aspect to these stories, on both the good side and the dark side. There is a bit of spiritual warfare that goes on. Tank is the godly character while the professor is an avowed atheist. There are some good theological points made through the dialog between the characters.

Various authors sometimes means difference in writing quality but I was happy to find that the writing was quite consistent. It was a little disconcerting to change points of view with each novella. And I felt like it was all unfinished business when I got to the end. The stories are entertaining but there is no resolution at the end of this collection. I sensed that the evil forces, what ever they are, were getting stronger. One would need to read the next collections, two releasing later this year, to get the ultimate message. I trust the battle of good and evil will continue. (Doing a little research, this looks like the first in a previously published multi-volume series.)

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Bill Myers is an award winning film maker and best selling author. He is the co-creator of MeGee and Me. He lives in California. You can find out more at
Frank E. Peretti is a best selling author with more than 10 million of his books in print. He lives in Idaho. You can find out more at
Angela Hunt is a bestselling author, having written more than 100 books. She lives in Florida. You can find out more at
Alton Gansky has written more than 20 novels and has won several awards. He lives in California. You can find out more at

Bethany House Publishers, 352 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Think Again by Jared Mellinger

We sometimes get caught up in self-examination, false guilt, and discouragement. We might be overly sensitive to the criticism of others. We get trapped in the swirling thoughts of unhealthy introspection.

Mellinger has written this book to help those caught under that burden. Self inspection is commended in the Bible but for a purpose, not to the extreme some get trapped into doing. Using the example of his own life, he helps us understand what it means to truly know our self and how we are to think of our self. He offers practical suggestions for biblical evaluation and great strategies for breaking free of false guilt.

I was impressed with Mellinger reminding us that the Bible tells us more about ourselves than we could ever learn looking within. He helps us learn how to evaluate ourselves correctly, realizing the purpose God intended for the discipline.

This is a practical book. Mellinger gives good suggestions as to how to control our thoughts and where we are to set them. I really like his emphasis on thinking away from ourselves, such as to worship and the beauty of God's creation. We are to look outside ourselves, to others and to Christ.

I highly recommend this book to those burdened with too much introspection. One of Satan's strategies for keeping us in sin is to get us to think excessively about our sin. Mellinger's book is a great resource to getting out of that situation. He includes questions for discussion in each chapter so this would be a good book to read with a trusted friend or group.

You can find out more about the book and read an excerpt here.

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

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Jared Mellinger joined the Covenant Fellowship Church pastoral team in 2006, upon graduating from Pastors College of Sovereign Grace Churches. He became senior pastor in 2008. Mellinger graduated from Kutztown University in 2001 with a B.S. in Art Education. He and his wife and their six children live in Glen Mills, PA.

New Growth Press, 192 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Litfuse. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Deep Extraction by DiAnn Mills

This is the second in the FBI series by Mills. It is a stand alone as the characters in this book are different than those in the first in the series.

I found the plot a little difficult to follow. It did not seem clearly presented and motives were a bit obscure. Part of that might be due to the relationships of the characters. The FBI agent, Tori, knew the murdered man from her college years. Tori remained friends with him and was, in fact, a very good friend of his wife. Cole, the U.S. Marshall investigating the case, was a current but good friend of the murder victim and his family. That means there is much background information that comes out as the plot progresses. Both Tori and Cole have experiences from their past that affect their current work so that made the plot all the more complex.

This novel is a good mystery. There is no suspense. It is the second I've recently read where a murder was committed by controlling a pace maker from a distance. The strength of the novel may well be the character development by Tori and Cole. They both had internal issues that could be made right only through God.

You can watch the book trailer here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author with more than fifty-five books published. She has won two Christy Awards and has been a finalist for several other awards. She and her husband live in Houston, Texas. You can find out more at You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and GoodReads.

Tyndale House Publishers, 416 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.