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.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Book Review - Gifted Mind by Jeff Kinley with Dr. Raymond Damadian

“Gifted Mind” provides the reader with a fascinating story of the invention and development of the MRI for non-invasive and early detection of cancer.  It also serves as an autobiography of Dr. Raymond Damadian and a discussion of the relationship between Christian faith and science.  In particular, there is a discussion of the increasing realization of competent scientists that evolution has little scientific support.

I enjoyed reading the book.  I have both a science background and theology background and could appreciate much of what Dr. Damadian has to say. I could identify with him when he discovers a ‘truth’ of God’s created order and the resultant praise to God for allowing him to see it and to pass it on for the benefit of mankind. I very much appreciated the time he took to explain how difficult it is to overcome the skepticism of critics over new ideas and the tenacity it takes to continue to pursue to completion an idea when there are so many obstacles.

A major part of the book discusses how God’s truth is made known through faith. Much of what he says is true, but he is more of a scientist than a theologian. Some of his discussion of scripture lacks theological precision.  One example is his explanation (p.220) of John 8:32 “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  After explaining that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, he says that the incarnation of Jesus “opened the previously inaccessible doorway to His truth and to its incomparable power – the power made available only by Him.” And yet many non-believers also have great minds and discover truths about how the created universe works. This is what theologians call common grace. Romans 1 and Psalm 19:1 are two passages that make it clear all creation reflects God’s glory and is known by everyone. The context for the truth referred to in John 8:32 are Pharisees who refuse to believe Jesus as the son of God. The truth is our bondage to sin, and only in Christ can we be set free from it.

There is much documentation in the book that serves to make the point that Dr. Damadian was the originator of the idea to use NMR to do a full body scan and of the method of detecting cancer using the two time relaxation parameters, but there was much repetition in this and I think less documentation might have been less self-serving. At times the book felt more like reading a personal journal of someone struggling with the world’s lack of recognition for his ideas and appreciation for the struggles he went through to make them reality.

Notwithstanding these weaknesses, the book is a worthwhile read for those interested in reconciling faith and science, which are often pitted against one another.  My hat is off to you Dr. Damadian!

I received this book for free from Master Books in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Book Review Rediscovering Discipleship: Making Jesus’ Final Words Our First Work by Robby Gallaty

Rediscovering Discipleship is not a quick read book but is a book I will add to my review yearly list. I have read other valuable books on discipleship (Down to Earth Discipling by Scott Morton, Disciple by Bill Clem, Follow Me by David Platt) but what really struck me in this book were three things.
First, Robby Gallaty is not dispensing a formula for making mature disciples of Christ, but carefully laying a foundation for an understanding of the process that can be applied to situations in local churches. Not until the last chapter does he really tell us what discipleship looks like in his situation.

Second is the substantial amounts of material helping to establish the context for a definition of discipleship. Not only is there a chapter on thinking like a Hebrew, but several chapters that describe the history of how the church has understood and practiced discipleship and how our current culture and bible translations help and/or hinder this understanding. Included in this discussion is a helpful discussion on the differences between John Wesley and George Whitfield.

Third is the emphasis that spiritual growth happens more solidly in groups than in one-on-one mentoring. He comes to this conclusion not only by experience but by observing how Jesus discipled his disciples.

Robby Gallaty has done well what he set out to do: help us gain an understanding of discipleship that has largely been lost in our churches today. 

I received this book free from Zondervon in exchange for an honest review