Monday, March 13, 2017

Book Review - Treasures in Dark Places by Leanna Cinquanta

It is true what many reviewers have said; this book is hard to put down. Part of the attraction for me, is that I am in the process of reviewing my thoughts on whether the healing, visions and dreams that existed in the early church, continue today as means God uses to guide and use in building believers up in the faith. For that reason I very much enjoyed her well written account in chapter 2 of her reoccurring dreams and the role that played in her decision to follow Christ, go to Bible school and go to India.

The book has no stated purpose, but can easily be read as an autobiography. As such, I found it an intriguing read, full of adventure, lovely descriptions of the many places she lived and the homeschooling environment she grew up in. I think Leanna Cinquanta is a very gifted writer and story teller.

This book was a joy to read, informative about the great work being done in India and caused me to stop and pray for those in extreme poverty and subject to human trafficking.

I was given this book by Chosen in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Book review – Bible Studies on Mark by William Boekestein

Bible Studies on Mark is a handy reference book for a teacher leading a small group through Mark’s Gospel. This short guide is written from a Reformed Theological perspective and draws on such authors, pastors and scholars as Dan Doriani, John Calvin, Louis Berkof, Kent Hughs and from the historic Reformed confessions and catechisms.

Each chapter ends with eight questions; a good mix of observation, interpretation and application. The book is sufficient for a short, moderately placed look at the book of Mark.  If you are looking for a deeper study that models for the student how bible study is done, I would recommend Sinclair Ferguson’s Let’s Study Mark.

I was given this book by Reformed Fellowship, Inc in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Book Review - Finding Forgiveness: Discovering the Healing Power of the Gospel by Stanley D. Gale

Answers to most questions you have about asking for or receiving forgiveness can be found in this well illustrated and biblically faithful explanation of forgiveness. New believers will find some well roasted meat to chew on.  Mature Christians will discover new richness to the theology found in the old hymns and catechisms as author Stanley Gale sometimes summarizes his exposition of scripture with one or more of these.

The inclusion of questions at the end of each chapter makes this book suitable for a small group study.

This book is an expanded version of his pamphlet “Why Must We Forgive”. Stanley Gale has added a really helpful chapter on “What About Forgiving Ourselves?” The writing is clear, concise and his explanations are well developed, making very helpful distinctions in the nuances of words often used carelessly in conversation.  The inclusion of many personal stories makes this an enjoyable read that communicates well the essential theological understanding of forgiveness and the implications for putting it into practice.

I found Gale’s answer to the question “Why does John say that God is ‘faithful and just’ to forgive us when we confess rather than ‘faithful and merciful’ most enlightening. In this, as in the rest of the book, there are clear connections to the finished work of Jesus Christ as what we trust in. He calls this “Kingdom Currency”. Gale says “Mercy does not give us the consequence deserved. ‘Just,’ however, necessarily captures the transaction involved in forgiveness, how that forgiveness was achieved.”

The second most helpful discussion for me was the discussion around the inadequacy of “apology” to achieve authentic forgiveness.  An apology may recognize a wrong, but it does not necessarily bring about a plan of action to address a wrong. In contrast, saying “will you forgive me” engages the other person and brings about the beginning stages of reconciliation.

Are you having difficulty with forgiveness?  This book is a timely, helpful, uplifting and encouraging read.

I received this book from Reformation Heritage Books in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Book Review - Christ All Sufficient: An Exposition of Colossians by Brian G. Hedges

This book has the best characteristics of Puritan writing while possessing the clarity and simplicity with depth that Brian Hedges brings to this exposition of Colossians. Following the practice of some of my favorite Puritan authors Brian Hedges opens the book with an outline of his exposition. The main body of the book then expands on each point in the outline, bringing in differing historical interpretations and the thoughts of more contemporary theologians and writers. Every chapter wraps up with a concise summary and possible applications.

This commentary would be a very helpful addition to the library of any preacher, bible teacher or diligent student of the bible.

I received this book from Shepherd Press in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Book Review - Martin Luther by Simonetta Carr

Long after my grandchildren are grown, I’ll still be reading this series of Christian Biographies For Young Readers. The author does not talk down, but uses words that flow smoothly and clearly. This book is wonderfully illustrated by Troy Howell and the pictures allow this book to be used in family devotions even if younger children are present. A parent or older child could read the text and a parent explain the text using the wonderful illustrations.

At the end of the book is a section called “Did You Know?” which makes valuable contribution to the author’s realistic biography of Luther. Included is an explanation of Luther’s changed attitude toward the Jews, helping children to know that even heroes have faults that need forgiveness. Included at the end is also a timeline of Luther’s life and a portion of Luther’s Small Catechism, making this a good addition to any homeschooler’s library.

I was given this book by Reformation Heritage Express in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Book Review - The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life: Connecting Christ to Human Experience by Jeremy Pierre

This is one of those rare books that skillfully combines theological insight while providing very clear helps in self-discovery and in counseling others. It has helped me listen a whole lot better, allowing me to frame better questions that help counselees understand themselves better and resolve inner conflict.

The book is organized into three sections. The first lays out how the heart responds to life with the interplay between the cognitive, affective and volitional components of the heart. The second section explores what the heart dynamically responds to (God, self, others and circumstances).  The third section lays out a counseling methodology. This third section is also quite useful for interpersonal ministry of the Word.

In the first section the author gives a definition of what the bible means by the word “heart” and lays out implications for our understanding of the unity of the mind, will and emotions in our responses to life. He covers the heart as corrupted, redeemed and explores how the heart is affected by external conditions.

The second section has a very helpful chapter titled “Self and Identity” where he carefully explains how beliefs, values and commitments get absorbed into the center of our identity and how this gets directed either to self-glory or to the glory of God.

Everything is pulled together in the third section where there is practical help in four areas: listening that helps us hear where people’s hearts are, reflecting or helping people to understand their heart responses, relating to Jesus as the author and finisher of their faith and renewing or calling people to new responses from faith.

This book has helped me to see more clearly the nature and causes of inner conflict that I often experience due to conscience and the dynamic interplay between what I know, what I actually love (tainted by sin) and what I want to do because of circumstances or desire to please others. Because this is often complicated, the framework and the suggested questions in the third section helped me sort out the reasons for my response in certain troubling situations and thereby helped me to pursue the right remedy for a more Godly response.

At times the book seemed to be repetitive and a little confusing. One example is the use of different terms for the functional areas first defined as cognitive, affective and volitional. Sometimes the author refers to these as thought-desire-choice, mind-emotions-will, cognitive-affectional-volitional or as verbs think-feel-value.

This book is a worthy addition to the library of experienced counselors, Stephen Ministers or anyone who desires to help people live more Godly lives.

I received this book from New Growth Press in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Book Review – A Bird, a Girl and a Rescue by J. A. Myhre Illustrated by Acacia Masso

This second book in the Rwendigo Tales adventure series for kids and young adults is also a “cannot put down” read for adults. It includes adventure, suspense, and character development with parallels to redemption. Like the first in the series (A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest), it takes place in East Africa.

The series author is a medical doctor who serves with Serge.  She wrote these tales as Christmas presents for her four children so they could enjoy reading stories with familiar settings.

The plot is based on real events in Africa that made national news, so I had no trouble identifying with the story. The use of animals that talk brings a measure of fantasy that brought memories back to me of my own fleets of imagination in my childhood when I had an imaginary rabbit as a friend who talked to me.

As the story progresses we see the main character develop courage, learn the value of forgiveness and experience the forging of a surprising friendships. The story is realistic, portraying evil as well as good. This book is listed for ages 8-12, but I would make it 8-adult.